Debunking 60 Minutes’ Rare Earths Report

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Rare Earth Metals: Debunking 60 Minutes' Report


On March 22, 60 Minutes ran a segment on the rare earth industry, covering how important rare earth metals are in our modern, technology-based world. Tiny and very powerful magnets made from rare earths are crucial to our consumer gadgets, renewable energy production, and the defense industry.

The report was nice to see. But I wouldn’t base any investment decisions on it.

You see, the report was notable not for the information that was included in the segment, but for how much was left out or simply ignored.

For instance, we don’t have to mine to get rare earths. Rare earths can be obtained from other minerals that we already process, and minerals that already exist can be recycled and repurposed.

In other words, it was typical, mainstream media reporting.

China Is Not the Villain

One point the story emphasized was that the United States is at the mercy of China when it comes to the supply of rare earth metals.

China does control over 90% of the market, but that’s changing. You see, not long ago that number was north of 97%. In other words, China’s monopoly position is fading.

60 Minutes harped on the possibility that China would play the geopolitics game and withhold rare earths from the United States, as it did with Japan a few years ago.

Yes, China could do that…

But the fact is, as pointed out by Roskill Information Services, a rapidly increasing proportion of Chinese rare earth supplies are now needed by its domestic industries. Roskill estimates that more than 70% of rare earth demand comes from China itself!

I reached out to Jack Lifton – a consultant, author, lecturer, and one of the most renowned experts on technology metals in the world – to get to the bottom of this matter.

“The Chinese are modernizing their economy and thereby improving their average citizen’s quality of life faster than any other large nation in history has done,” said Lifton. “One of their projects is to ensure their security of supply of market critical raw materials [MCRMs], and wherever possible to do this through Chinese ownership and/or control of the production and final destination of the MCRMs whether they are produced inside of China or in a foreign country.”

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Matti Ressler 5 years ago Member's comment

You would do better to run a story on the horrendous pollution from mining rare earth metals, particularly in China.... all for this so called "green" technology. One only needs to Google images for "China rare earth metals" to see.

RAJAN VAIRAWANATHAN 6 years ago Member's comment

Typically a mainstream bunk