Rare Earths Mining And Processing Leading To Much Pollution In The East

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor


The BBC presented an engaging and informative report concerning how the unprecedented demand for rare earth elements is leading to environmental degradation, especially in developing countries. It proposes that one of the ironic tragedies of manufacturing green technologies is that it is leading to concentrations of pollution in specific areas. This also brings forth the importance of having a conversation about advanced, consumer societies needing to engage in much self reflection on the causes of the insatiable appetites consumers have for top of the line electronics.  Of which are designed with quick obsolescence as a business model.


In conversations I have had with others for over fifteen years concerning obsolescence and the cost to the consumer I used what I labeled the “Rake Approach”.

In this opinion, I am reminded of an old metal tined rake my father purchased in the early 1970’s. He used this rake for nearly twenty five years despite heavy amounts of use, including as a tamper for burning leaves. It was well built and lasted a generation. It did not need upgrades, special advanced metallurgy in the tines, or any feature that would need upgrades or replacements. It was, after all, just a rake.  Yet, low quality rakes and the new introduction of novel rakes, which in actuality perform the same task, are marketed to consumers who will buy one every other year or so.

Where we begin to fail in our never ending desire for resources via the upgrade business model is that features continually demanded result in significant waste to meet the need for small improvements that consumers are conditioned into demanding. While upgrades are certainly appropriate given actual needs for efficiency, one has to question the totality of circumstances when deciding if we need a new smart phone every year when a 2005 vintage cellphone, or even the 1960’s Bell rotary dial telephone will still work on the American telephone network.

The BBC describes that one of the reasons why China and Mongolia are becoming increasingly world dominant in the production of rare earths, is due to the economics of production deriving from a willingness to forego healthier environmental and remediation practices mandated by other nations, including the United States. Rare earths are not limited to sources in China alone, they are nearly as common elsewhere. The difference being the total cost of mining.

The news report offers much information that is certainly worthwhile to hopefully foster discussion and where we go with regard to the demands we place upon the earth. I invite you to read the BBC report at the following link:

The Dystopian Lake Filled By The World’s Tech Lust

By Darren Smith


BBC News

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

35 thoughts on “Rare Earths Mining And Processing Leading To Much Pollution In The East”

  1. Issac … you cited “anti-union”. For the record I am not anti-union, even began life in the skilled trades, and even was an AFL-CIO member in an administrative position in the construction field. I just have no use for Unions that represent fields who produce nothing tangible, such as SIEU…who tried here to “unionize” against their will, and without even asking for a vote, home care workers, even if related or the wife of a person being cared for…e.b., wanted the state to collect dues from them. Tried the same thing with “home school” parents. Sorry, I don’t buy that nonsense. The voucher values the home school parents and home care workers received are earned and paid for by the taxes they themselves also pay. That said, I am in favor of school vouchers for all parents who want them. That IS a place where government and the private sector can assist each other. Funding goofy outfits like Solyndra or Tesla by whatever means is nonsense….they are not fulfilling a public interest service, one on one, even if you contrive a means to present it that way.

    You apparently have no problem with Europe’s and Japan’s subsidy of their automotive businesses. IMO that is a bug, not a feature. A false reduction of costs at the manufacturer and an added cost to the taxpayers of said nations. Like I said, this is the seed for oligarchy.

  2. Airdog

    It was the ‘hands off’ US auto industry that tanked itself by not having government influence demanding better mileage, lower emissions, and better cars. Yet when the US auto industry screwed itself it came running to the government.

    In Europe and Japan, the government has been a partner in their auto industries and their auto industries are successful where our is not. One can philosophize and/or theorize until the cows come home but the facts of the matter have recorded success in countries that partner government, labor, and management and failures in those that maintain the ‘no government/anti labor’ stance.

    In the end it may be about reality of myths vrs reality. Americans remain unique in many failing realities that are still defended through myth. This comes with never having had the back up against the wall. Almost every other country that is advancing faster and with less resistance than America has had their back up against the wall. One does what one has to when one has to. The winner will fix it before it is broken.

  3. Issac … to better explain my position on oligarchs and government, understand that I find specialized tax treatment to be the same as subsidy. It achieves the same end…your money and mine going to some outfit, by default, that we may never utilize.

    Slightly off topic: any candidate who advocates for a “fair tax” (consumption) or “flat tax” (income) and adds it will eliminate the IRS is either a liar, misguided, or a fool. Revenue collection by any means is still the IRS…even if you change the name.

  4. Issac … I have no problems with government being involved with business, or with their part in coordinating, what I object to is their financing of some businesses. Finance exploration or scientific research, which has omnibus applications, fine, but subsidize product…no thank you. I’d bet that government finance sponsors more oligarchs’ basic business (not research or exploration) than not. They didn’t get to be oligarchs without government. We will have to agree to disagree on how government creates oligarchs rather than discourages them or by passes them. In short & on a smaller scale….I see no valid reason for government to spend my money for somebody else’s Tesla car…or big three varieties either. Let the product rise or fall on private initiative & investment….coupled with product quality. That’s what Henry Ford did, not so much his assembly line (which helped) but his creation of “everyman’s car.” The “times” are not so different in that space.

  5. Airdog

    There is successful government influence and unsuccessful government influence in business, or the private sector. In reality there is no one sector or another. Successful paradigms involving government in business can be found throughout the world’s economies. These formulas are more successful than the ‘good ole’ American myth of no government in business. In another fact the government is there regardless. The question is do we want the oligarchical style which presents the myth of no government or the more open and open for improvement style where government, business, and labor work together.

    We have been proving, continue to prove, and will no doubt prove into the future that the American oligarchical status quo oriented system is falling behind those systems that coordinate government, labor, and business. Americans have been resting on their laurels living in a myth for almost two generations. The momentum of this country will mask the fact for some time to come. However, the system is second class and will take second place to those systems that put their entire social structure to advancement in all facets.

    That Henry Ford succeeded in business with what he made, in the world as it was when he made it, and in that time has beneficial lessons for today. However, it was a different time, place, world, and product and is not completely applicable to today, now, and the products that will be there tomorrow.

    There is an old adage about repeating the same mistake. This could also be applied to repeating the same old success. In all facets of life one must analyze the time, place, and subject in order to succeed. Consider the wisdom of stopping at Henry Ford. Consider the general who uses the same successful plan over and over until his enemies twig onto it and he is defeated. Such is life.

  6. Issac … I’d prefer no subsidies for endeavors that can and should stand on their own. I am not a fan of persistent government influence in business. Subsidy for exploration is a case where government has a legitimate interest. As a resident of Henry Ford’s home town(s) I assure you we are fully aware of his flaws. My point was simple: how did he succeed in business with out subsidy, personal matters aside?

    I’d be less inclined to decry subsidy per se if we (the USA) wasn’t so deeply in debt. A lot of folks talk on about what we owe China, however, that pales beside what we owe ourselves…e.g., the holders of the bulk of our debt are ourselves. In short, every subsidy comes out of all of our pockets. I’d entertain any comment that reasonably establishes otherwise.

  7. Aridog, When a simple question about Ford is answered w/ Godwin’s Law, you know you won the debate. Ford was not a nice guy. So what??

    “Nice guys finish last.” Leo Durocher

  8. FREE MARKET! Socialism is for the weak. Solyndra showed what happens when weak leaders subsidize weaker, corrupt, companies. How can Progressives believe in Darwin, and then try and thwart Darwinism?? It won’t work. Come up w/ a cleaner, cheaper, fuel and the world will beat a path to your door. Until then, get outta the way, or put on your big boy pants and compete! No whining.

  9. Read up on Henry Ford. You might be surprised. He mentored Hitler. It was a different time, but the people still exist.

    Some stuff needs subsidies and some stuff doesn’t. Still, would you prefer oil, gas, and coal to get subsidies and not advanced technology that will remove our dependence on fossil fuels? Answer that one.

  10. Issac … how did Henry Ford ever sell a Model T or Model A? Subsidy? If so, please cite it.

  11. It’s telling when someone holed up in a confined space, watching the world go by calls 95% of what the world’s preeminent scientists say as ‘junk’ science. Sounds like Trump fodder.

  12. “Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine, three deuces and a 4 speed, and a 389..”

  13. With oil getting cheaper as new resources are found, look for the GTO to make a comeback. I’ll buy one. The reason the Church of Environmentalism cultists are going crazy, wanting to prosecute scientists who disagree w/ their junk science under RICO, is because oil is getting cheaper and more plentiful. I have a family member who is a chemical engineer in the oil biz. He laughed his ass off when the phony predictions of the world running out of oil started a couple decades ago. According to the “settled science” of 20 years ago, we are supposed to have run out of oil already. These holy roller Church of Environmentalism folks are getting downright nasty/crazy. I mean even more than always have been.

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