New Rare earth supply chain

An article in the International Herald Tribune (March 8, 2011) describes a new rare earth supply chain.  The ore is mined in Australia and concentrated (2/3 of the dirt removed) before it is put in sealed bags inside steel containers on trucks to the port.   These containers are sent by large ships to Singapore, then transported by small ships to the Malaysian port of Kuantan.  The ore is trucked to a plant that will process it using sulfuric acid to dissolve the rare earths. The waste is mixed with lime put in storage pools until they are diluted to a low level of radioactive residue.  This residue is disposed off in road beds or used to build artificial reefs.  When fully operational, the plant expects to meet 33 % of the world demand for rare earths (excluding China).  Given the complex supply chain for rare earths, how high will prices have to remain for this source to be globally competitive ? Will existence of this supply source prevent the anticipated rare earth material shortage ? Who should be responsible for the associated radioactive residues – the OEMs who will use the rare earths or the producing company ?

About aviyer2010

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