On-Demand Inventory and Warehouse Management Solutions

Go Back   SmartTurn Forums and Blogs > Blogs > Al's Supply Chain Corner

Rate this Entry

Not Familiar with REE? They Put Tech Supply Chain and Green Initiatives at Risk

Posted 07-01-2010 at 01:19 PM by Albert Fong

For years now, the focus of environmentalists, businesses and consumers has been on oil and the development of alternative energy sources. But yet another risk to the supply chain is looming but to date has received little attention—rare earth minerals (REE).

REE are the materials—dysprosium, terbium and neodymium—that make most of our high-tech products from cell phones and computers to electric cars and solar panels work. The gist is that these compounds create and facilitate the processes and reactions so for instance, automobiles run and cell phones dial and answer. REE aren’t rare at all, and actually pretty abundant in nature. The problem comes from the mining process which is expensive and environmentally destructive. Like oil, the U.S. imports these materials from China, and they’ve begun to put up restrictions that may have detrimental effects on this country. For trivia fans, China is the world’s biggest supplier of key REE, accounting for more than 90 percent of global production. Not to overstate the point, but our green initiatives and technology progress depend on REE.

While it’s been encouraging to see the growing use of electric cars and cleaner burning fuel, alternative energy still has a ways to go before we cut ourselves off of foreign oil. REE may be in a slightly worse state of affairs since we really don’t have any immediate and long-term alternatives. Now, the Mountain Pass mine in California’s Mojave Desert does have an abundance of REE, but we have yet to develop an environmentally safe way to mine it. In the past, mining at the site created radioactive waste and negatively impacted the environment.

As with the Middle East, China understands the hand it has and will likely use it to its advantage in the business and political arenas. The U.S. is in a difficult situation because this obviously impacts the health of the technology supply chain over the long haul. As most of us in the supply chain industry can attest, problems are best addressed through balance and compromise.

But first you have to understand that there’s a problem—the sooner, the better.

Posted in Uncategorized
Views 5195 Comments 0 Email Blog Entry
« Prev     Main     Next »
Total Comments 0


Total Trackbacks 0


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 07:15 PM.

blank_image blank_image blank_image