China willing to meet reasonable rare earth demand from other countries

The "rare" part refers to the fact that they're very hard to extract before they can be used in electronics, despite being common in the earth's crust.

China dominates global supply chains of nearly all 17 elements that constitute rare earths.

Oil prices rose in Thursday trading, but analysts cautioned that the gains could be reversed, depending on the results of negotiations on output cuts by Opec+ producers, including Russian Federation, which together control more than half the world's crude production.

Beijing is "seriously considering" restricting exports to the United States of rare earths, 17 chemical elements used in high-tech consumer electronics and military equipment, the editor in chief of China's Global Times said yesterday.

Chinese state media reports grabbed global attention Wednesday as they dropped heavy hints about export cuts. Beijing can cause economic pain even while strenuously denying it is taking any punitive measures, instead hiding behind the guise of more innocuous safety regulations or administrative restrictions.

Beijing is gearing up to use its dominance of rare earths to hit back in its deepening trade war with Washington. "The answer is no mystery", read an editorial.

"The irony, and that is an understatement, is that the USA has rare earth deposits capable of meeting national security needs, and ending the reliance on China", McGroarty said.

However, it added, "China also clearly knows that the United States would suffer greater losses in that situation".

In 2014, the World Trade Organization ruled the country had violated global trade rules by restricting exports of the metals, claiming environmental damage from mining and the need to conserve supplies. An example would be neodymium that is widely used in magnets and in headphones.

Everything from Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet to guided missiles and lasers used to determine targets rely on the elements to perform key functions.

Some rare earth minerals are essential in military equipment such as jet engines, missile guidance systems, antimissile defense systems and satellites, as well as in lasers.

"The U.S. can't tell Apple or other industrial companies what to do, but they can tell companies how to manufacture products for government agencies to use", Anthony Marchese, Texas Mineral Resources' chairman, told Reuters. A Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine needs 4200kg.

The Trump administration is aware of the implications.

In February, the Ministry of Mines in its notification said, "coastal areas in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, where beach sand is laced with rare earth minerals, have been suffering erosion, damaging the eco-system and threatening the livelihoods of indigenous fishermen owing to unscientific and illegal mining of beach sand".

"It's a very real concern, and it obviously depends on the elements".

But mining the metals creates huge amounts of toxic waste and in 2003 California's Mountain Pass mine - then the sole United States miner of rare earths - ceased production, following an environmental disaster a few years earlier.

Absent this comprehensive approach, the ball is in China's court for now.

China is busy upgrading its rare-earth sector.

For much of the last century, the USA dominated rare earths production. They are, however, unevenly distributed.

If China decides to cut off rare earths, it would have a devastating effect on both sides, according to Trzupek. Alternate sources exist in Australia, Brazil, India, Malaysia, South Africa, and the US. In 2012, for instance, during the Scarborough Shoal standoff with the Philippines, China announced new restrictions on fruit imports from the Philippines. China temporarily halted exports to Japan amid a maritime dispute in 2010, forcing the Japanese to capitulate and release a detained Chinese fishing boat captain.

  • Zachary Reyes