So, off we go once more. Henry Sanderson and Michael Peel’s article (“EU sounds alarm on critical raw materials shortages”, September 1) fires the beginning pistol for a scramble for supplies anticipated for use in our post-carbon future.
In my 41-year metals profession, we now have loved just a few such moments. Within the 1970s, an organization referred to as Strategic Metals Corp seduced traders with the concept that minor components utilized in know-how would run out (they didn’t), whereas in 2008 the US Nationwide Academy of Sciences issued a report entitled “Minerals, Important Minerals and the US Financial system”, which induced a way of hysteria across the US’s alleged 97.6 per cent dependence on China for uncommon earths.
Now the EU needs to get in on the act, producing statistics to point out how dependent the EU is on different nations for things like dysprosium.
Actually, I’ve by no means seen a rustic with a predominance in a fabric mysteriously not wishing to provide it. As a substitute of fearing that provides are held again, we must be grateful to the world of commerce for matching the surpluses and deficits all international locations have in metals and supplies. One nation’s surplus is one other nation’s deficit — nobody has the whole thing, not even the US or Russia.
That is what useful resource merchants do — we purchase in a single market and promote in one other. When costs get too excessive in a component, substitution happens.
Generally the dominance of a rustic — China in, say, tungsten — signifies that costs plummet for years on finish. It isn’t that different international locations couldn’t produce tungsten, it’s that China overproduces and undersells, generally with valuable little environmental management, making manufacturing in different international locations unviable.
Near Plymouth in England’s south west is the tungsten mine at Hemerdon, identified to mineralogists and miners because the Victorian period, however which is unable to succeed due to China’s dominance.
I fully agree with reshoring mining in Europe and the European Funding Financial institution spending on extra environment friendly recycling — however don’t faux it’s as a result of China or another nation state is holding supplies again from the market. That will be like anticipating water to run uphill.
Lipmann Walton & Co
East Molesey, Surrey, UK