Inside The Ring: China’s Rare-Earth Controls

by Admin on October 13, 2010 · 7 comments

in China, In The Media, Japan, Rare Earths

Bookmark and Share

by Bill Gertz – The Washington Times – Published: October 13, 2010

The diplomatic dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands has died down, but the incident involving a detained fishing boat captain has raised new fears within the U.S. government over China’s use of economic warfare, namely, its control over exports of rare-earth minerals needed for high-technology manufacturing.

“It isn’t about scarcity but rather China’s virtual lock on production capacity,” said a U.S. official who monitors the issue. “Other countries have rare-earth mineral deposits but aren’t exploiting them to the same degree.”

Japanese diplomatic sources confirmed — contrary to denials from Beijing — that China shut off or slowed exports of rare earths last month after Tokyo detained a Chinese boat captain who rammed his vessel into two Japanese coast guard ships near the Senkakus, which are Japanese territory but claimed by China and Taiwan.

Japan’s Ministry for Economy, Industry and Trade conducted a survey recently of 31 Japanese companies dealing with China on rare earths and found that all were facing official and unofficial problems in getting shipments out of China since early September. The slowdown hit some companies that already had obtained Chinese licenses to export rare earths.

Rare earths include 17 elements that contain unique properties that are essential for high-technology goods. They are used in batteries, lasers, computer hard drives, magnets and other electronics.

Experts say China since the 1990s has taken steps to try to lock up the market for these difficult-to-extract metals. Starting in 2006, China began cutting exports by 5 percent to 10 percent annually, driving up prices amid growing demand.

Estimates are that China holds 35 percent of the world’s reserves of rare earths and it supplies between 93 percent and 95 percent of demand.

Gareth P. Hatch, a specialist on rare earths with Technology Metals Research, said the Chinese tightening of rare- earth exports should be a wake-up call.

“I’m not sure I believe that there is a high probability of the U.S. losing access to the raw materials, semifinished and finished rare-earth products that its defense contractors need, for the devices and weapons systems that are used by the Department of Defense,” he said. “On the other hand, should such a scenario occur, the effects would very likely be devastating, and I would argue that this is an unacceptable risk.”

Non-Chinese production reportedly will begin in the next several years in California, which produced some rare earths until 2002, and in Australia, India and Vietnam. According to the Economist magazine, the only rare-earth producer outside Asia that is not dependent on Chinese ore is the Estonian company Silmet, which is being sought by customers worried about Chinese controls.

Bookmark and Share
1 fran October 16, 2010 at 12:25 PM

if the federal gov’t performed their limited consitutional assignments and stayed out of things belonging to states, localities and individuals, we should not fear the actions of china or other nations. but the feds fail and the nation suffers accordingly.

get back to attending to the NATION’S security[military, borders, trade, economy].

2 Chris October 19, 2010 at 12:54 PM
3 chris October 19, 2010 at 4:32 PM

Just heard on CNBC that China has blocked REE’s to U.S. and I didn’t catch the other country.

It was clearly said by Maria Bartiroma and then a commercial. LOL


Come ON Ucore, say something ! like everyone else has. ( arrrg )

Lets see, they hit Japan with it and demanded electric car tech if you wanna sell there.

4 chris October 19, 2010 at 4:40 PM
5 chris October 19, 2010 at 4:42 PM
6 gobucks October 19, 2010 at 6:25 PM

Check out Paul Krugman’s rant.

Not only is he hopelessly naive, but he’s the biggest hypocrite on the block.

Would he support more commonsense environmental laws? No.

Limits on government set-asides of federal land (not allowing mining)? No.

Holding back on revising the 1872 Mining Act? No.

But here he is, calling for new domestic sources, and asking why nobody has done anything. And expecting China to act in any other way except to protect its own interests?

The guy is useless.

7 BRUCE October 20, 2010 at 9:03 AM

Dear BILL, thank you very much for all your reply and notes.
Here i have raise this concern to Grath : Thorium
According to my knowledge, it is one of the rare earth metal, and this mineral as a source of nuclear fuel it is claimed to produce less shorter half life waste. Be more difficult to use in nuclear weapons. More suitable then uranium as a fuel and more abundant in the earths crust.

and just wondering u have any idea which australian mining company is operating on this mineral?
Best regards,

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: