No Data Mining Without Mineral Mining

Semiconductors, iPhones, wind turbines, and all our other modern technologies rely on an unreliable supply of rare earth metals

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For several years now, China has cornered the market for the world’s rare earth metals, mining 95 percent of them. There was a fear that China would use that near monopoly, and sure enough, in September, the country began blocking shipments—mostly to Japan, with whom it has territorial disputes, but also to the United States and Europe. Rare earth metals are needed for all sorts of high-tech products: iPhones, flat-screen TVs, electric cars, even wind turbines and photovoltaic cells. Politics aside, China has plenty of manufacturing reasons to hoard its rare earth metals—demand greatly exceeds the supply. Host Steven Cherry talks with James Burnell, a geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey.

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