Rare Earth Emergency #2
How would you feel if the United States was more than 90 percent on Iran for its oil supply? Such a thing would be unthinkable! We would not tolerate that kind of extreme vulnerability. Why is it then we will accept being more than 90 percent dependent on Communist China for rare earth minerals and critical metals that power all of our modern technologies? Communist China has the ability to quickly strangle the U.S. and the rest of the western world with its near monopoly of REs.
This Chinese monopoly of rare earth elements may be more dangerous than OPEC’s ability to dictate oil prices not so long ago. Just like oil and natural gas, rare earths and other critical minerals are essential to most things we use. The Middle Kingdom has quietly grabbed the world by the throat. All it has to do is squeeze. China’s mining dominance didn’t happen by accident. Thirty years ago, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proclaimed, “The Middle East has its oil. China has rare earths.” China then methodically went about the task of capturing about 95 percent of the market.
Consequently, Communist China has enormous leverage over all nations. In addition to its own massive mineral wealth, it provides substantial financing to developing nations in exchange for mineral rights. And the Chinese have been purchasing mines and mining stakes for decades, including in Latin America and Africa. This stranglehold poses an economic and military threat to the world. The nation most at risk is the United States.
Rare earths and the components made from them, such as high-strength magnets, are essential for most defense capabilities, including fighter jets, radar systems, smart bombs, and satellites. In addition to rare earths, the Department of Defense uses about 750,000 tons of other critical minerals each year, most of which are imported. In 2013 retired General John Adams wrote a book on the folly of America’s shocking over-reliance on critical mineral imports. General Adams wrote, “The federal government has not formulated a comprehensive and coherent policy approach to address the national security risks of inadequate access to many key minerals and metals.”
China has already demonstrated its willingness to use rare earths as a geopolitical weapon. In 2010 it stopped shipping rare earths to Japan, which caused a severe economic shock and a near standstill in manufacturing until shipments resumed. Chinese dominance in producing rare earths as well as other critical minerals is only part of the leverage it holds over the United States and other nations.
That’s because it’s not enough just to mine these resources. A nation also has to have the smelters, refiners, and processing plants to turn those elements into usable products. Because mining has declined in America, those support industries have declined as well. In addition to that, many U.S. universities have stopped offering courses in materials science, metallurgy, mineral processing, and mining engineering.
One other reason for China’s dominance in minerals and metals is that it doesn’t value human rights and environmental protection the way Western nations do. Workers are underpaid, they labor in dangerous conditions, and Chinese mining has created massive toxic lakes.
It’s encouraging that the Trump Administration has recognized America’s extreme vulnerability. But because of bad decisions and neglect from U.S. presidents and Congress for the past three decades, the nation finds itself in an extremely deep hole. All the while, China continues to advance its 100-year plan for global dominance.
For the Clear Energy Alliance, I’m Mark Mathis. Power On.
Rare Earth Emergency #2
USGS “Rare Earth Elements” report. Graph of China’s growing dominance page 4
Brigadier General John Adams, U.S. Army, Retired
Remaking American Security: Supply Chain Vulnerabilities & National Security Risks Across the U.S. Defense Industrial Base (2013)
Rare Earth Emergency #1
US Geological Survey – World mining, including rare earths
Book “GroundBreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence”
Department of the Interior’s 2018 list of critical minerals
USGS Critical Mineral Resources of the U.S.
Engineering & Technology: “The global battle for precious metals”
National Mining Association: Permitting, Economic Value, and Mining in the United States
Global copper market undersupplied
Bureau of Mines is Shut Down – Washington Post, December 1995
Rare earth resources used for wind
USGS – Critical Minerals in Renewable Energy
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