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Rare Earth Materials to be Recycled in Europe

02/07/2011

The European Commission is developing a strategy to simultaneously recycle and assist countries in Africa in sustainably mining rare earth materials, partially in response to a reduction in export quotas by China, provider of 97% of the world's supply. China issued an outright ban on rare earth exports to Japan in a dispute over fishing rights last year, and a few weeks ago Caijing magazine reported that China would begin stockpiling materials. In 2009, Inner Mongolia said that it was considering building a strategic reserve of the materials on behalf of the central government. An Öko Institut study, commissioned by the European Greens, recommended that Europe stockpile and recycle elements used in solar panels, wind turbines, and hybrid cars- such as lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, and samarium. China will likely use more and more of those materials itself as it produces wind turbines and solar panels to compete with American and European products. The Commission will be investing 17 million euros in improving underground technologies and the substitution of some rare earths, and in the United Kingdom the British Parliament's Commons Science and Technology Committee held an inquiry into strategic metals, hearing testimony from the British Metals Recycling Association. In Germany, Handelsblatt newspaper reported that the government was trying to forge an alliance with Kazakhstan to reduce China's dominance. For the full story, see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/business/global/28rare.html?ref=energy-environment and http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jLitgHJ6sgdmoPSl78ULsYqXKYqQ?docId=CNG.b27ce982d5a2c46fdde0c964ca0fcea9.441. For the Oeko Institut study, see http://www.upi.com/Science_News/Resource-Wars/2011/02/02/Study-wants-EU-to-recycle-rare-earths/UPI-51961296671371/. For the story on Britain's inquiry, see http://www.recyclingtoday.com/bmra-testifies-rare-earth-metals.aspx. For the story on Germany and Kazakhstan, see http://www.steelguru.com/metals_news/Germany_and_Kazakhstan_forging_rare_earth_pact/189254.html. For stories on China's efforts to control and stockpile the materials, see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/business/global/21rare.html?src=mv and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-25/china-to-start-stockpiling-rare-earths-caijing-says-update1-.html.