Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Socionomic Alarm: China Proposes Restrictions on Exporting Rare Earth Minerals

Another news story laced with socionomic themes:

World faces hi-tech crunch as China eyes ban on rare metal exports
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
A draft report by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has called for a total ban on foreign shipments of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Other metals such as neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum will be restricted to a combined export quota of 35,000 tonnes a year, far below global needs.

China mines over 95pc of the world’s rare earth minerals, mostly in Inner Mongolia. The move to hoard reserves is the clearest sign to date that the global struggle for diminishing resources is shifting into a new phase. Countries may find it hard to obtain key materials at any price...

Yes, there are mine sites that closed back in the 1990's that could be revived, but think about structural razor wire they have to navigate: EPA restrictions, changed mine standards, county and state regulations that will eat into company operations - all in the face of a crippled credit system. Bringing back all that shuttered capacity won't happen overnight.

Socionomics calls this on many levels - the "restrictions" piece where a negative mood leads to a "gotta hold onto our stuff, to heck with the rest of them" on China's part to the polarization found in the environmental movement that will certainly oppose bringing mines back to life in the U.S. and other "advanced" countries.

"Stuff" matters. Food actually has to be grown. Useful minerals must actually be mined. The vast bulk of people who live lives intermediated by computers still don't get it. This "magical thinking" that socionomics calls for in bear markets will play a huge role in things like the reaction to resource wars which can flare up in troubled times - if we just wish hard enough, someone will sell us these things. Don't worry about fixing our own house. Someone will come along and help us. It will all work out, just pop another anti-depressant and watch some TV...

Speaking of socionomics, the August issue of The Socionomist came out today. Whoo-hoo! I know what I'll be doing once the kid gets to bed tonight. Looks like a good one.


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