We’ve been Warned: China’s Rare Earth Reserves are Dwindling
I’ve been raising the flag around Rare Earth Elements for some time now. Last year, in my blog, Conflict Minerals, Rare Earth Elements, E-Waste and You, I noted that China had evidenced its willingness to play hardball around these critical minerals. In my webinar for Green IT Awareness Week, Electronics’ Dirty Little Secrets and How to Move from Green IT to Sustainable IT, I talk about many of the critical roles these elements play in our medical devices, computing devices and manufacturing. And just today, the BBC reports China’s warning that “most of the original resources are depleted.”
Here’s the deal. Unless you’re prepared to revert to paper and pen, printed encyclopedias, chemically processed film and x-rays, and land lines, you best start paying attention to the issues related to rare earth elements. What can you do? Refrain from buying the next new device until you really need it, and make sure the devices you abandon are passed on to someone in need or to an organization that can repair, refurbish and redistribute them. Pressure your congressional representatives to champion the federal legislation that would fund research into processes to reclaim these currently un-reclaimable materials.
Our electronic way of life hinges on the availability of rare earth elements. Currently China is the source for the lion’s share. Deposits exist around the globe, but they’re difficult and dirty to extract. Expect that the accelerated demand from emerging markets embracing the digital age will continue to challenge the already-diminished supply. Expect prices to rise. Do your part to make your electronics last.
I’d like to hear your thoughts about how we can engender responsible use. We’re not just running out of rare earth elements. We’re running out of time.