China Blocks Exports of Rare Earth Metals Needed For Green Technology
January 2, 2010
(ChattahBox)—The Independent has an interesting piece today on China’s plans to choke off the export of rare earth elements that are crucial to green technologies, as well as electronic devices from iPhones to X-ray machines. They are also used to produce fiber-optic cables and missile guidance systems. The co-called rare earth elements include about 17 metals, such as neodymium, lanthanum, terbium and dysprosium. And at the same time that there is growing demand for the rare earth metals, China, which produces 97 percent of the world’s supply is sharply curtailing exports of the precious commodities, leaving Western nations scrambling to find other supply sources, before a worldwide shortage affects global industry.
According to The Independent, global demand for rare earth metals has tripled from 40,000 tonnes to 120,000 tonnes over the past 10 years. But China has cut annual exports from 48,500 tonnes to 31,310 tonnes. And Beijing announced last month that it intended to curb exports at 35,000 tonnes for each of the next six years. Additionally, an internal report by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology suggested that the Communist country intends to ban outright, the export of five rare earths and restrict supplies of the remaining metals.
That means that Western nations need to quickly locate alternate sources. European and North American companies are opening mines in Canada, South Africa and Greenland. And corporations are seeking government-backed loans from the United States to establish supplies of rare earth metals needed for guidance systems of missiles and laser-guided weapons.
The United States and the European Union have called on the World Trade Organization to intervene in China’s export restrictions on vital rare earth metals, citing various international trade rules that China has violated. China called the complaint “ridiculous and unacceptable.”
See The Independent for more.