Mining the Heavens

25 Apr

Ever heard of neodymium, gadolinium, or yttrium? If you own a Prius, or a smartphone, chances are one of 17 rare earth elements are
vital to some component's functioning. China, which now produces 95% of rare earth elements, continues to take steps to regulate extraction of these vital elements.

At a regular press conference, Zhu Hongren, chief engineer of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), reiterated
that comprehensive measures to regulate China's rare earth industry, including production caps, export quota cuts and stricter
emission standards, are in line with WTO rules.

"The disorderly development of the rare earth industry has caused enormous damage to the environment," Zhu said, warning
that the environment will suffer greatly if rare earth exploitation is not regulated.

He said China's regulations are created after fully considering the ability of the environment to ensure effective supplies of
rare earth metals.

He added that China is willing to cooperate with foreign companies in recycling rare earth metals and developing substitutes for the

On March 13, the United States, European Union and Japan teamed up to bring a joint case to the WTO over China's alleged export
controls on rare earth metals, which they claim are hurting their own domestic manufacturers.

Now comes Planetary Resources.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I know the geopolitics support such ballsy gambits, and, even if Beijing's concern is most likely cant, these rare earth elements
might be necessary for gadgets, but they are toxic to earthly life. My real concern: will these expeditions accidentally bring back a
face-hugging, chest-ripping alien?


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