Please Note: Blog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors.

Underpriced Rare Earth Metals From China Have Created A Supply Crisis

Todays, Dec. 6, 2009,  Times of London (NASDAQ:UK) has an interesting story about the environmental problems in the region of Inner Mongolia that accounts for essentally all of the production of "light" rare earths today in the world.

China has a policy of predatory pricing, which has allowed it to gain monopoly control over some strategic natural resources such as the rare earth metals. The policy has now backfired as the low revenues to Chinese producers have deprived them of the investment funds they need to not only expand production but also to maintain the production they have.

The result is a massive Chinese environmental problem, which threatens all by itself to cut  non Chinese end users off from their only supply.
I wonder if our western institutional investors really understand the key driver for China's rush to "develop" its natural resources. Western investors see greed/profit as the main driver for any production of natural resources anywhere. I think that the Chinese government,which we must remember is the owner of, and licensor of any production of, all natural resources in China, is determined to catch up with western technological progress by whatever means necessary not to make profits but rather to level the cultural playing field. Chinese "entrepreneurs" are not risking their lives and endangering the lives of their fellow countrymen primarily to produce natural resources for export; they are driven by greed, surely enough, but their greed is satisfied by the managers of Chinese state enterprizes who cannot get sufficient raw materials to meet their quotas under the current five-year plan. These managers will pay more than the "contract" price for supplies, because in China failure to meet your goal is the same as failure to do your job, and simply to say that you could not get sufficient supply is merely making excuses, because the same five-year plan that you are not fulfilling says that the natural resource producers will produce enough material to fulfill their part of the plan, and their suppliers of equipment will also produce enough. Those failing to meet their quotas are clearly failing the people... I think we all understand how this type of pressure can lead to environmentally unsound decisions and even to official mines looking away from unscheduled and unsafe production.
The idea that we in the west can compete with this type of thinking by simply looking at such metrics as "return on investment" is at best naive.
I have said before and I will continue to say that the so-called prices set for rare earth metals by Chinese producers at all levels are arbitrary.
When the crunch point comes, and it may come very soon, when there are no rare earth metals to be had in China for export the prices of the rare earth metals will skyrocket and institutional investors will squander billions to re-start the western supply and value chains for the rare earth metals. Western institutional investors simply don't know how to value rare metal resources; they are about to have an expensive lesson.
Let me repeat: I believe that the rare earth metals are underpriced already at the present time, because they represent a Chinese pricing set for the main purpose of keeping the production of the rare earth metals and of their end use products in China to maximize the jobs created by this industry within the domestic Chinese economy.
This situation cannot last much longer, because China itself is running short of rare earth metals due to inefficient production methods, environmental problems, and corruption.
Any questions??

Disclosure: I have no positions in the stocks of any rare earth mining companies