‘Rare Earth’ elements: Chinese monopoly a massive threat

This is going to get much, much worse before it gets better. If it can get better…  “rare earth”  is perhaps the most under-reported issue in the world right now. -JG.

China Using Rare Earths as a Weapon

IntelDaily.com

Joao Peixe: Sept. 6th, 2011

China is currently responsible for more than 90 percent of the worlds rare-earth production, and some analysts allege that China is using its de facto monopoly to lure a high tech companies to China.

U.S. Magnetic Materials Association president Ed Richardson said, “We’re all losing. They (the Chinese) are using their monopoly of rare earths as a weapon. And they’re going to get what they need.” Richardson added that rare earth element (REE) mining projects currently being pursued by companies worldwide from Mongolia to Africa to counteract the Chinese de facto REE monopoly either will begin significant production too late or will produce only a few some of REEs needed for high-tech products, ranging from cellular telephones to cruise missiles.

Technology Metals Research LLC co-founder Gareth Hatch is tracking 381 rare earth projects outside China and India, involving 244 companies in 35 countries, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

As an example of China trading access to REEs for imported high-technology production, citing high costs for cerium, a glass-polishing rare earth, Japan’s Hoya Corp. announced that it will begin manufacturing some optical devices in China, and Asahi Glass Co., one of the world’s largest producers of components for LCD television and computer monitor panels, announced earlier this year that it will open a manufacturing plant in Shenzhen. Like Hoya, Asahi Glass suffered from a shortage of cerium. Other Asian major LCD panel manufacturers, including Japan’s Sharp Corp., South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Display Co. and Taiwan’s AU Optronics Corp. are intending to shift some of their production into China to ensure the necessary access to REEs.

Joao Peixe is Deputy Editor OilPrice.com

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