Financial journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says Beijing is drawing up plans to prohibit or restrict exports of rare earth metals produced only in China that are vital to cutting edge technology.
The metals are used in products including hybrid cars, catalytic converters, superconductors, and precision-guided weapons.
“The move to hoard reserves is the clearest sign to date that the global struggle for diminishing resources is shifting into a new phase,” Evans-Pritchard writes in the UK Telegraph.
“Countries may find it hard to obtain key materials at any price.”
Blackberries, iPods, mobile phones, plasma TVs, navigation systems, and air defense missiles all use a sprinkling of rare earth metals, Evans-Pritchard points out — and China mines more than 95 percent of them.
Moreover, new technologies have since increased the value and strategic importance of these metals and it will take years for fresh supply to come on stream from deposits in Australia, North America, and South Africa.
“The rare earth family are hard to find, and harder to extract,” says Evans-Pritchard, adding that the Japanese government has drawn up a Strategy for Ensuring Stable Supplies of Rare Metals that calls for “stockpiling” and plans for “securing overseas resources.”
“The West has yet to stir,” Evans-Pritchard notes.
Industrial Minerals reports that in its latest bid to secure a supply of rare earths outside of China, Canada’s Neo Material Technologies has teamed with Japan’s Mitsubishi to develop rare earth resources at a tin mine in Brazil.
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