This evening I stayed back while a nice chap listened to Ambience Ribbon loudspeakers. I was struck by the terrible realisation that inspite of our currency strength and these things being made in Victoria that they are about to suffer an inevitable major price rise.

The Ambience high efficiency ribbons possess their unique properties from their fridge-bonding-irrevocably neodymium magnets that create a very strong permanent magnetic field for the driven ribbons.

Just in case you hadn't heard ... the supply of rare earth metals is almost entirely down to a single set of mines in China which have been increasingly restricting their export of elements such as neodymium in recent years ... some sources are quoting a fourteen fold increase in the price of processed Neodymium since 2008.

However it was the increasingly low price of Neodymium oxide from China in the 1998 (and enviromental concerns) that caused the Mountain Pass mine mine in Calfornia to be closed ... against the say of strategic analysts who recognised the chokepoint in our industries in the West. Thus we are the victim of our own economically rationalist policies.

In case you still havn't got it rare earth magnets are utilised in a wide variety of Consumer Eletronic products and also sadly the burgeoning future electric car industry ... In 1942 the Allies recognised the chokepoint that ball bearings and fuel represented to the German arms industry and therefore launched a strategic bombing campaign with B17's and B24's that eventually bought the Third Reich to its knees (that and the fifty million Russian soldiers coming at them from the East ...)
There are unfortunate parallels with rare earths and that World War II campaign ...

I understand that Afghanistan is potentially a major supplier of rare earths ... just the minor matter of inaccessible mountains and intransigent Taliban that stop commercial interests from attempting exploitation. Perhaps the Chinese should be the next to have a crack at Afghanistan after the US and NATO leave ... and then they'll really make us pay for our loudspeakers and mobile phones ...