back to article India makes a play to source rare earths – systematic scrapping of its old cars

India has come up with a novel way of getting its hands on some rare earths – by junking cars. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Friday announced a Vehicle Scrappage Policy that aims to get junkers off Indian roads, with reducing pollution the main aim of the new effort. Pollution is a major issue in India. In November 2019 …

  1. Magani
    Joke

    Attention all 1958 Morris Oxford Owners!

    Here's a terrific opportunity to corner the spares' market with all the Hindustan Ambassadors about to hit the junk heap.

    1. WallMeerkat

      Re: Attention all 1958 Morris Oxford Owners!

      Also Rover Cityrover owners with all the Tata Indicas

      From when the tables were turned, and it was India supplying the model for the British car industry.

      Now of course India basically owns (except MINI and MG) the British car industry (Jaguar Land Rover including rights to Rover)

  2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good

    This is a lesson to every country and industry everywhere: there's a gold mine to be found in your waste dumps.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Good

      There probably is, but is it economically possible to recover it? By economically, I mean both in terms of money and energy usage. R&D into this is a good thing, even if it's not feasible just yet. I'm not so sure about the rare earths bit though. There's lots of rare earths around. But no one wants the ecological costs of processing them into useful elements. It's hard to compete with an economy that takes far less care of the pollution than other countries.

    2. Borg.King

      Re: Good

      Where there's muck, there's brass.

  3. man_iii

    Price of a tank of gas

    There is no incentive to switch to electric vehicles. Too expensive and no significant benefits to the taxpayer. While they have a one-off tax code to offset taxes beyond your limited bracket it wont necessarily reduce yearly taxes or the maintenance or the cost of purchasing and running in a country that still does 8 Hour powercuts !!!

    The govt price gouged and enabled private power suppliers to price gouge electricity consumers when they couldnt physically take manual readings to the supplier depot to pay their bills due to the COV when the govt imposed lockdowns!!!

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Price of a tank of gas

      The govt price gouged and enabled private power suppliers to price gouge electricity consumers when they couldnt physically take manual readings...

      It's fine. Electricity bills are now the UK's preferred way to pay for someone else's virtue signallingm, eg-

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58222808

      Marketing spin is how many energy campaigners describe this so-called "greenwashing" of energy tariffs.

      What the Bbc (of course) fails to mention is all the greenwash that gets added to electricity bills. Like adding the cost of building out EV charging networks. Electricity bills are already fundamentally dishonest as they don't (and AFAIK can't) itemise all the green crap consumers are paying for.

      But I digress. If India can improve it's recycling, it'll need a lot of energy to do that. Or just upgrade it's metals industry so it can make more speciality steels, alloys etc. But I'm also curious if it's the right approach, ie India being kinda huge probably has a lot of rare earths... somewhere. And presumably if it hasn't sold mining claims to the Chinese, could be extracting those themselves.

      But India's been busily building coal, gas and nuclear power stations to feed it's industries and growing consumer demand. Meanwhile, the UK's still tilting at windmills..

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: Price of a tank of gas

        > What the Bbc (of course) fails to mention is all the greenwash that gets added to electricity bills. Like adding the cost of building out EV charging networks. Electricity bills are already fundamentally dishonest as they don't (and AFAIK can't) itemise all the green crap consumers are paying for.

        Could be worse.

        The government gets approx. £40 billion a year from fuel duty, fuel taxes and car road tax. Which is about 5% of total revenue.

        https://ifs.org.uk/publications/14407

        Throw in the VAT from new/used car sales (~£8 billion [*]), the income tax raised from people working in the automotive industry (~850,000) and the monies raised from garage business rates/spare parts VAT/etc, and I wouldn't be surprised to find that number more than double.

        Meanwhile, the government spends £11 billion on road infrastructure and £4 billion on public transport.

        So even with just the baseline £40 billion value, that means that around 60% of the money earned from motorised vehicles is used elsewhere. So the government is going to have to put up taxes elsewhere.

        Such as on electricity.

        Don't get me wrong - I fully understand and agree with the need to move away from ICE-based vehicles, and some of the above will simply transition to doing other things which also pay taxes, in much the same way as old Victorian theatres became cinemas, and then became bars/luxury apartments/etc.

        But the ongoing move towards a "post-carbon" transport system is going to be highly disruptive across large swathes of the economy, both in the short and medium term.

        [*] Assuming 2 million cars at an average sale-price of £20k per car. Though since a lot of new car sales are via companies, I'm guessing there's a lot of tax amortisation dodges being applied. Still, it's a big chunk of cash!

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Price of a tank of gas

          So even with just the baseline £40 billion value, that means that around 60% of the money earned from motorised vehicles is used elsewhere. So the government is going to have to put up taxes elsewhere.

          Such as on electricity.

          Nope. If I were to fill up a car with gas, I'd be charged fuel duty, VAT, and a small amount of the total for the actual dino-juice. Some of that money goes back into paying for infrastructure like roads, service stations etc.

          There's no reason the same should not apply to EVs. Use one, get charged for using one. But scum sucking subsidy seekers and other parasites (like the Bbc) think everyone should pay more to subsidise 'renewable' energy. Naturally that increases the cost of everything, either via electricity costs, inflation etc. Not to mention increasing fuel poverty, or poverty in general due to reduced competitiveness.

          But that's something countries like India & China understand. They're not sacrificing their industries or economy on the altar of Green. They're developing theirs to compete, and understand that to do that, they need to control their costs.

          1. Valeyard

            Re: Price of a tank of gas

            think everyone should pay more to subsidise 'renewable' energy

            the alternative is to let the next generation after us pay for our shortsighted selfishness and greed

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    They need to learn from "cash for clunkers" in the US

    So we had "cash for clunkers" where we got old, polluting cars off the road. Problem is, poor people suddenly ended up having no cars to buy because A) these cars were trashed and B) prices went up because supply went down.

    Also, it turned out to be worse for the environment because these cars were simply shredded or smashed without draining the fluids, so all the oil, coolant, brake fluid, etc is now seeping down through all the landfills.

    1. Thought About IT

      Re: They need to learn from "cash for clunkers" in the US

      And that was before Trump started trashing environmental regulations. In many ways, to an outsider, the US looks no different from a corrupt a 3rd world country.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They need to learn from "cash for clunkers" in the US

        Any country that can be beaten by a corrupt 3rd world country must be on the same level. The US has now managed it more than once. How the Viet Cong or Taliban can force the west to quit defies all explanation. Why they were there in the first place is another puzzle.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: They need to learn from "cash for clunkers" in the US

          >Why they were there in the first place is another puzzle.

          To keep the Jewel of the empire safe from the Czar

        2. Raj

          Re: They need to learn from "cash for clunkers" in the US

          The UK was in Afghanistan for almost 15 of those years too. Don't dump it all on the US.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: They need to learn from "cash for clunkers" in the US

      "Also, it turned out to be worse for the environment because these cars were simply shredded or smashed without draining the fluids, so all the oil, coolant, brake fluid, etc is now seeping down through all the landfills."

      "There ain't no gummint gonna tell me how to run my business. My Granpappy always poured the used oil down the drain, so if it was good enough for him, then it's good enough for me."

      Sometimes, it takes strong regulation to overcome greed. If that regulation means some business find they can't or won't adapt and go bust, then tough on them. It's their kids as well as everyone elses who suffer because of the shit that gets dumped in or next to watercourses or just buried in the ground.

  5. PRR
    Facepalm

    What rare earths? Assuming that junkers in India are no more sophisticated than my 2001 Honda Accord, not even the speaker magnets are rare earth. I have a trace of Platinum in the catalytic converter. There's good Al-alloy in the engine but melted down would be an unspecific mixture instead of a known alloy, so it still has to be smelted back to elementals and alloyed again. The few pounds of high-strength steel in my car would not make a dent in India's needs for high-strength steel in bridges and such.

    I think Modi's staff are telling hi what he wants to say, not a reality.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I did a double-take on that as well. I would like to know just how much rare earths enter in the composition of over-10-year-old cars.

      Heck, I'd like to know how much enter into today's new cars, electric and not.

      I know we need them for something . . .

      Wikipedia says they are used for magnets and electronics, ceramics and catalysts.

      Ok, fine. Ceramics are not much present in cars, I think, and I doubt high-efficiency magnets are present in car speakers either. Electronics in clunkers ? Not much of that either I would guess. It's today's cars that are full of that.

      So, not much rare earths to recycle, I'd wager. This is a non-announcement.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But these are Hindu cars and are therefore all things great and wonderful.

        Rare Earths are good and desirable

        Therefore Hindu cars contain rare Earths.

        Simple if you are a simple religious nationalist

        1. Raj

          What the fcuk is wrong with you ? You think your Hinduphobic bigotry is a joke ? A coward's exactly what you are.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            > You think your Hinduphobic bigotry is a joke ?

            More Modi-phobic. or do you think ultra-nationlist religous-bigot leaders are a joke?

      2. M. T. Ness

        Lanthanides

        AFAIK there is cerium oxide in catalytic converters. In advanced magnets there seems to be praseodymium and neodymium - separating them apparently isnt cost effective.

        Cerium is the stuff to get rid of first to get to the rarer ones.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Lanthanides

          I'm not sure most Indian cars have cats and they certainly don't have "advanced magnets"

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        This is a non-announcement.

        Yes. Look at the relevant sentence: "Now when there is scientific and technology-based scrapping, we will be able to recover even rare earth metals."

        "Now" is a bit of verbal fluff. The relevant word is "when".

        And "we will be able to recover" is (a) in the future tense and (b) it falls way short of saying "we wll recover".

      4. Geez Money

        The average clunker contains about a half kilo worth of cerium and neodynium, that is not negligible in aggregate by any means. More modern fancy cars can contain several kilos (electric cars average about 5kg from what I recall, depending on battery type natch). I think you're both misunderstanding how catalytic converters work and totally whiffing on how many random spots in a car use a magnet for something.

    2. Irongut Silver badge

      At the end of the day rare eaths metals are not really all that rare. Even if India's old cars had tonnes of them (spoiler alert: they don't!) it still wouldn't make much difference and China would still corner the market. There are plenty of rare earth metal deposits elsewhere, e.g. the USA, but they closed the mines because China was cheaper. Should the price go back up those mines would become profitable again.

  6. elgordo

    Re: Cash for clunkers

    We have poor people in South Africa too. And there are even more in India, so it's unlikely to work there either. Isn't virtue signalling wonderful, especially for the politician who says it first?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cash for clunkers

      >We have poor people in South Africa too

      I thought ZA was a utopia now the bad guys had gone ?

      I only read the Gaurdian

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Cash for clunkers

        "I only read the Gaurdian"

        I saw what you did there!!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clean up Indian pollution.

    India has to have the worst plastic pollution problem in the world. I was appalled by the sheer quantity left lying about.

    NB: There are many places I haven't travelled so expect there are worse offenders.

  8. Tim Worstal

    Dodgy metals trader here

    1) India's cars don't contain rare earths. Cars that do are those with catalytic convertors and or rare earth magnets in the stereo etc. Which isn't the sort of car they're talking about scrapping.

    2) That's not what he said either. Rather, that India can now recycle rare earths and it's also going to have a car scrappage scheme. Two different things, not the one being part of the other.

    3) India does have a rare earths industry, a small one. They have the mixed concentrate (from varied mineral sands operations) and a small separation plant.

    4) The biggie. You can't have a circular economy when you're building a civilisation the first time around. Because you're not scrapping enough to provide the scrap to build the civilisation. Sure, you should feed old cars into steel furnaces. But you want steel for 1 million (to invent a number) out and you've only got 100,000 cars a year to put in (to invent another number). You've still got to go get the steel for another 900,000 cars a year from somewhere.

    This is also true of rebar for concrete buildings, steel and aluminium for windmills, anything in fact. It's only when you're tearing down civilisation 1.0 (or 2.0) that you've an excess of scrap over demand for new rather than a deficit. So, Civ 1.0 requires more raw material than local scrappage can produce. At which point, why not import scrap from people doing the Civ 3.0 bit instead of using iron ore to make virgin? As, umm, India does right now.

    The advanced and rich countries are, largely enough, exporters of scrap metal. The currently poor countries are, largely enough, importers of the same stuff. Which is as it should be. Because a poor place doesn't have enough old stuff being scrapped to produce the Civ 1.0 while tearing down Civ 2.0 to create Civ 3.0 produces an excess of it.

    5) Finally. Anyone worried about running out of rare earths is insane. There's a shortage of separation plants, that's true enough. But then you need one of those to process scrap anyway. There's absolutely no shortage of rare earth concentrates out there at all. It's dollar a kilo stuff (as opposed to seaprated, wihch might be $40 a kg stuff) wihch isn't the priec of something in any form of absolute short supply.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge
    Flame

    Seriously?

    The nation also aspires to become a hub for the automotive industry.

    Well they're going the wrong way about it. Not too long ago, anyone buying parts used to run a mile at the sight of anything stamped as made in China. These days, every home mechanic knows that the truly godawful shit all comes from India.

    One specialist I know is having suspension parts made to pattern in China themselves, purely because the official aftermarket parts production has moved to India and the failure rate of those is catastrophic.

  10. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Such expenditure on effective recycling facilities of rare earths makes sense, if India invades Kashmir or Afganistan...

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