Yves here. I must confess to being ignorant of the fact that there was protectable technology involved in the processing of rare earths. My understanding had been that despite the name, rare earths are not all that rare, and that the US had been willing to cede mining to other countries, particularly China due to the high environmental cost, particularly water use/contamination.
In a new round of tit for tat, China has added to its restrictions on exports of key materials, including rare earths, by also halting exports of processing technology. And as the article below makes clear, China’s real choke point is not in mining but in processing.
By Tsvetana Paraskova, a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. Originally published at OilPrice
China is prohibiting the export of some technologies to process rare earth elements to protect its national security as the race for critical minerals supply intensifies.
China’s Commerce Ministry banned on Thursday the export of technology to extract and separate rare earth elements (REEs), a group of 17 critical metals used in the manufacturing of permanent magnets that are used in electronics, EV technologies, and wind turbines.
The move follows last month’s directive from the Chinese authorities to exporters of rare earth minerals to report transactions and is the latest escalation of the trade spat between China and the West.
Earlier this year, China, the world’s largest producer and supplier of graphite, said it would require export permits for some graphite products as of December 1 as it seeks to protect its national security. Graphite and graphite products are critical for the manufacturing of any electric vehicle battery, and China is the dominant player in the market.
The restriction on exports of graphite products was the latest Chinese attempt to exert its market influence to control the supply of critical minerals.
Now China bans the export of production technology for rare earth metals and alloy materials, and technology to produce some rare earth magnets.
In rare earths, China controls 60% of global supply and a massive 90% of the global refining of rare earth elements, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on the vulnerabilities of the clean energy supply chains earlier this year. China is also the only large-scale producer of heavy rare earth ores.
Limited diversification of supply could present a challenge to the global critical minerals industry, the IEA warned in a report earlier this year. China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indonesia continue to dominate a large part of the critical raw material supply, while China is a dominant player in refining operations, the IEA noted.