Rare earths: New weapon in U.S.-China trade war?

China hints at exports ban

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a major rare earths mining and processing facility in Jiangxi province last week, pushing for green development of the country’s rare earths industry. A spokesperson from China’s National Development and Reform Commission hinted at a ban on exports, raising concerns in the U.S. that China may use its valuable rare earths production as a new bargaining chip in the ongoing trade war.

Global leader in rare earths . . .

Rare earths are minerals with magnetic and conductive properties that are critical to the manufacture of electronics, semiconductors, and military equipment. China accounts for 90 per cent of global rare earths production, 70 per cent of global exports, and 80 per cent of imports into the U.S.. A Chinese ban on exports could cause major disruptions to global supply chains.

Not so rare after all . . .

Shares in rare earths mining and processing companies have risen in recent days. Canada’s Hudson Resources is partnering on a rare earths project in Greenland to capitalize on the growing interest in supplies of rare earth elements. However, rare earths are in fact not so rare – many countries including the U.S. have reserves, but producing them is extremely environmentally damaging and it takes decades to get mines to the production stage.