Rare earths: Why Europe needs to monitor China’s threat

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President Xi Jinping's visit to the site where this resource was mined and processed only went to heighten the speculation that China could act tough in the context of exporting this resource to the US if the trade war still continued.

If China or Russian Federation were to stop exports to the United States and its allies for a prolonged period-similar to China's rare earths embargo in 2010-an extended supply disruption could cause significant shocks throughout US and foreign critical mineral supply chains. "We want diversity. We don't want a single-source producer", said Jason Nie, a material engineer with the Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), on the margins of the Argus US Specialty Metals conference in Chicago.

Jin Baisong, a retired researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, noted China's rare earth export quota didn't have the desired effect, as smuggling of rare earths was rampant and some export companies falsified the customs code to evade the export quota.

China, as part of the escalating trade conflict with the United States, implied through its state-controlled media last month that it could restrict rare earth sales to the world's largest economy. "The Lynas/Blue Line joint venture will help ensure that US companies have continued access to rare earth products by providing a USA -based source".

Chinese rare earth prices started to move "right after China announced the import ban" on rare earths from Myanmar, said Helen Lau, an analyst at Argonaut Securities in Hong Kong.

The US simply can not survive without China's supply as it now does not have any processing capacity.

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The NDRC said in late May that China is willing to continue supplying rare earth metals to global markets but is opposed to those who use products made with rare earths to "suppress and dampen China's development".

The country's tariff tactics might present an image of Fortress America battling its adversaries, but a new critical minerals strategy advocates greater co-operation between the USA and its friends.

A technician works at a rare earth processing company in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province. The rare earth elements total 17 in number and they are termed rare because of the costly process involved in their refining and which was also pollution causing.

The US Commerce Department on Tuesday recommended urgent steps to boost domestic rare earth production.

The US report calls for improving supplies "through investment and trade with America's allies", while streamlining the issuance of permits for mining in the US, including on federal lands.

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