The New York Times’ Keith Bradshear has taken a closer look at foreign manufacturers moving their production sites into China in an effort to mitigate reduced access to and increased cost for REEs – a development we covered on our blog here and here.
The article underscores that rather than acting out of environmental concerns, which has become the official rationale touted by Chinese officials defending the country’s restrictive rare earths policies, China, which controls 97% of the world’s REE output, is deliberately using its REE stranglehold to lure business it otherwise would not be able to attract.
In the mid-to long run, the days of China’s REE power play are numbered as other countries are finally stepping up production efforts. For now, however, our own failure to read the writing on the wall early on, and our abandoning of U.S. domestic production efforts have enabled China to leverage its near-monopoly position as a tactical geopolitical weapon.
Overall, China’s rare earths tactics hold an important lesson to be factored into our overall mineral strategy, as our unnecessary and harmful dependence on foreign mineral resources stretches far beyond rare earths.