Author Topic: China and rare earth minerals  (Read 3806 times)


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China and rare earth minerals
« on: June 11, 2019, 06:18:05 AM »
Explainer: U.S. dependence on China's rare earth - Trade war vulnerability

(Reuters) - Rare earth elements are used in a wide range of consumer products, from iPhones to electric car motors, as well as military jet engines, satellites and lasers.

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China supplied 80% of the rare earths imported by the United States from 2014 to 2017.

China is home to at least 85% of the world’s capacity to process rare earth ores into material manufacturers can use, according to research firm Adamas Intelligence.

It would take years to build enough processing plants to match China’s processing capacity of 220,000 tonnes- which is five times the combined capacity of the rest of the world.

Alternative processing plants would struggle to compete with China’s low costs in the future, should trade tensions abate.

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The United States imported $160 million of rare earth compounds and metals in 2018, up nearly 17% from 2017. Around 60% of it was used in catalysts for oil refining and in vehicle engines.


Rare earth metals are a group of 17 elements - lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, yttrium - that appear in low concentrations in the ground.

Although they are more abundant than their name implies, they are costly to process.

Importers made limited efforts to reduce rare earth consumption and dependence on China after a diplomatic dispute between China and Japan in 2010. Japan accused China of halting rare earth supplies for political reasons, sparking recognition worldwide of the risks of dependence on one supplier. China denied it had halted supplies.

California’s Mountain Pass mine is the only operating U.S. rare earths facility. But MP Materials, owner of Mountain Pass, ships the roughly 50,000 tonnes of rare earth concentrate it extracts each year from California to China for processing. China has imposed a tariff of 25% on those imports during the trade war.

Australia’s Lynas Corporation Ltd in May said it signed a memorandum of understanding with Texas-based Blue Line Corp to build a rare earth processing facility in the United States.

Rare earths are also mined in Australia, Brazil, India, Russia and Vietnam.

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Re: China and rare earth minerals
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2019, 01:32:14 AM »
Full Article here

Rare earths are colorful metals derived from 17 hard-to-mine chemical elements, which are crucial elements of mobile phones, flat screen televisions and more than 200 other consumer electronic devices that we use every day. China already controls 90% of the global export supply of these materials, with the only other source being a little-known facility in Malaysia. And, according to Cohen, that lone alternative source is under pressure and threat from Chinese interests.

The only other alternative is the Malaysia-based production facility of Australian company Lynas, which is the world’s “only major producer of rare earth minerals outside of China.” The company mines rare earth elements in Western Australia and processes them in a facility near the city of Kuantan, on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia.

So what has sustained the ‘Stop Lynas’ campaign despite the lack of clear environmental justification? According to Cohen, the influence of Chinese interests over local politics cannot be ruled out. China has proved adept at co-opting local politics to suit its geopolitical ambitions. “One of the most potent tools for Beijing [has been] to cultivate close ties with political elites,” said AidData, a U.S.-based watchdog that monitors development funding.

Last year, Xu Yousheng, deputy director of the PRC’s United Front Work Department stated that overseas ethnic Chinese “should strive to become active promoters of mutual political trust and mutually beneficial relations between China and neighboring countries.” It is perhaps more than coincidental then that many ‘Stop Lynas’ politicians are members of the ethnic Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Minster of Environment Yeo Bee Yin has been calling for Lynas’ closure for years, despite all evidence being against Lynas causing environmental problems. Yeo’s billionaire husband, Lee Yeow Seng, is from one of Malaysia’s wealthiest families and runs IOI Property Group, part of a conglomerate with deep ties in China. Recently, Minister Yin has rebuffed calls for her to resign over conflict of interest issues related to the ongoing forest fire crisis in Indonesia. IOI has significant palm oil interests in that nation and is said to be among the companies behind the haze that had been affecting much of the region, including the Philippines.