A stunning discovery has been made. Reuters reported this week that “Vast deposits of rare earth minerals, crucial in making high-tech electronics products, have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and can be readily extracted, Japanese scientists said on Monday.”
Here is a great article about it with graphics that clearly show the magnitude of this discovery!
I’m continually stunned at the rolling-out of the unexpected in these end of days. Just as political supremacy has been indicated in one country or another, it suddenly falls. Just as Russia eyed oil supremacy, Israel has become the world’s potentially richest nation in natural gas, oil shale, and oil in the last 18 months, going from an importer to a self-sufficient exporter. Israel is on the cusp of an energy revolution, causing jealousy in Russia. And now this: rare earths, tumbling China from its supreme position to a mere paltry contender.
Let me explain what has been going on in rare earths since the mid 1990s.
|China rare earth mine: source|
China’s rise in economic power allowed that nation to corner the market in rare earth metals. They literally have a monopoly. By now, the US relies almost completely on a supply of these obscure but critical minerals from China and this fact spooked us big time. This was by China’s design: they deliberately set out to corner the market on rare earth minerals. What happens when rare-earths become scarce? The Chinese have spent the last 25 years amassing them and then in the mid 2000’s they turned the spigot down, causing scarcity.
What are rare earth metals? Most people define them as including the following 17 metals: Cerium Dysprosium Erbium Europium Gadolinium Holmium Lanthanum Lutetium Neodymium Praseodymium Promethium Samarium Scandium Terbium Thulium Ytterbium Yttrium. These rare earth metals are in just about everything that makes current civilization function.
“Here’s why you should care about them: By the 21st century, rare earths had become essential to global commerce. Take a look around you. There are probably plenty of things that depend on them. Rare earths are used in permanent magnets, which are integral to modern electronics and green technologies. They’re in iPhones, earbuds, cell phones and hard drives. Their use is not exactly new: they were in cathode tube televisions, although they are now in flat screens too. They’re in electric automobile windows, MRI machines, and compact fluorescent bulbs. A Toyota Prius contains at least two pounds of them. Each advanced wind turbine has roughly 660 pounds of the soft silvery metal neodymium. They are also used in guided missiles and other weapons systems. As recently as the 1990s, the world had a geographically diversified supply of rare earth minerals. China produced a lot, but the United States, Brazil, India and Russia also had active mines. However, as getting rich became increasingly glorious, the Chinese smelled an opportunity. In 1992, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping reportedly pronounced China to be the Saudi Arabia of rare earths, reflecting the geologic fact that his country is unusually rich in them. Deng also noted that, given their importance, rare earths are wildly cheap. China began to close the spigot on its supply — adding tariffs and slowly tightening export quotas. As the world became increasingly dependent on rare earths, China had quietly cornered the market and created a shortage. Some analysts believe that 2010 will be the first year when global demand exceeds supply.” And China was sitting on that mountain, gloating.
Now they gloat no more.
The Reuters article about the new rare earths discoveries continues: “The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just 0.4 square mile of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption,” said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo. [WOW!!!] The discovery was made by a team led by Kato and including researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. They found the minerals in sea mud extracted from depths of 11,500-20,000 ft below the ocean surface at 78 locations. One-third of the sites yielded rich contents of rare earths and the metal yttrium, Kato said in a telephone interview. The deposits are in international waters in an area stretching east and west of Hawaii, as well as east of Tahiti in French Polynesia, he said. He estimated rare earths contained in the deposits amounted to 80 to 100 billion metric tons, compared to global reserves currently confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey of just 110 million tonnes that have been found mainly in China…”
So suddenly China is out of luck, as this Japanese Business Magazine reports. The “Solution to the rare earth problem could come from the sea” “Huge quantities of rare earth elements exist on the Pacific Ocean floor, researchers say, a development that could end China’s virtual monopoly on the metals but may exacerbate legal wrangling on the high seas. In an encouraging sign for makers of high-tech products that require rare earths from the dwindling supply, the deposits appear to be in seabed conditions that will make it easy to collect and refine them, according to team, which included researchers from the University of Tokyo.”
Everything is increasingly unpredictable. Weather is going crazy. Political ups and downs are surprising. As fast as French Presidential contender Dominique Strauss-Kahn faced sexual assault charges in New York and seemed to lost his bid against Sarkozy, now he is up again. As deliberately as Russia has crafted solidity through pipelines and deals in the oil market within Russia, and in the Baltics and Asia Minor, that supremacy was toppled within 18 months as vast deposits and oil fields were discovered in Israel. Now China’s monopoly in rare earths was lost in one day as rare earth deposits were found near Japan, and easy to reach, too.
In the Tribulation, geo-political shifts and rises and falls of fortunes occur even more quickly and dramatically than they are occurring today. We know that Russia, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, and others attack Israel for “plunder and a spoil”. (Ezekiel 38:13). That great amount of riches they seek could be the treasures Israel has recently discovered under their sand and sea. The ‘Kings of the East‘ collectively march against Israel, and though the Kings are not named, logic deduces that they could be be a united Japan, China, and Korea… and let us not forget India is also east of the Euphrates.
The point is, that nothing is solid except heaven. As we get closer to the Tribulation that solidity will continue to wither. The earth that seems to strong, will crack asunder (Isaiah 24:19). The riches and supremacy one nation has, fall down in one day. (Rev 18:10). The Lord sets up Kings and he takes them down. (Daniel 2:21).
Sorry, China. It seems that Japan won this round. You won’t have long to wait, though, something else is sure to come along in these fast-changing times to change the fortunes of one over the next. As Mark Twain said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a few minutes,” and in these end of days we can safely modify that saying to: “If you don’t like the world situation, wait a few minutes.”