Another bone of contention emerged in the trade negotiations between the US and China. Beijing is has stepped up it’s threats to stop the export of rare earths to the US. That means prices would rise and America’s big tech and defense companies could be hit hard. Because Without Rare Earths, many products like smartphones, laptops, aircraft engines or guided missiles can not get made. Rare Earths are a group of 17 elements. Cerium is one of them, you find it in catalytic converters in cars. Bastnasite is used in the nuclear industry. If you want to make magnets, you need Neodymium. And Lanthanum is a glass-additive, used in lenses for precision optical equipment or lasers.
Rare earths are not as rare as the name suggests, but can be hard to mine. And if you look at production figures it’s easy to see what it would mean for the tech industry around the world if China decided to throttle production, or would just be a bit selective about who it sells to. China is by far the biggest source of those rare elements. It supplies nearly 120,000 tonnes per year, three quarters of the global production. Australia comes a distant second with just 20,000 tonnes, followed by the US. The US used to be a big producer, but now digs only 15,000 tonnes out of the ground each year.
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