China tightens its grip on the building blocks of the future

In May 2019, state media Global Times warned that the United States was “facing pressure on rare earths” and that exports to Washington were in “Beijing’s hands”.

China has also considered limiting exports of rare earth minerals in 2021 to hamper U.S. manufacturing of F-35 fighter jets. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has proposed controls on the production and export of 17 rare earth minerals.

More recently, Lin Boqiang, director of the state-owned China Center for Energy Economics, said “China has no obligation to be the world’s supplier of rare earths.”

The country achieved this status by importing raw materials from elsewhere and refining them into rare earth metals.

Paul Atherley, President of Pensana Rare Earths, said: “China has focused its strategy on preserving its own resources in all commodities and has sought to import mined materials from the rest of the world – materials that do not have not been processed.

“Thus, China has established itself as the country that refines the raw material into metals for the economy.

“It’s all about magnets, they are one of the most important critical metals, the whole world will stop without them.”

Announcing his intention to reduce dependence on China, European Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “This partnership will help diversify the EU’s supply of raw materials.

“The high potential of reserves of critical raw materials in Ukraine, as well as the need to modernize its extractive industry, underpinned by the improvement of the legal and administrative framework for investors and the geographical neighborhood, represent a solid basis for a mutually beneficial partnership. “.

As long as Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues, production and exports will certainly be damaged, potentially forcing the bloc to rely more heavily on Beijing.

Sourcing options for these minerals outside of China are limited. MP Materials, a Las Vegas-based rare minerals company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, is a potential supplier. Another major publicly listed producer is Australian company Lynas Rare Earths. The production capabilities of both, however, are dwarfed by Chinese producers.