China Considers Banning Exports of Rare Earth Metals

95 percent of global supply of rare-earth metals controlled by China.

Published: 15-Sep-2009

Japan is readying itself for a potential showdown with China at the World Trade Organisation as Beijing considers plans to strangle global supplies of rare earth metals — the “green” lanthanide metals used in hundreds of environmental and military technologies.

Global supply of the rare-earth metals, which are vital to the mechanisms of hybrid cars, wind turbines, iPods, lasers, super-efficient light bulbs and radar systems, is 95 per cent controlled by China.

The country’s dominance of the market is the result of a deliberate, 20-year bid by Beijing to cast itself as the “Opec of rare earth metals”. China’s apparent plans to tighten the leash on world lanthanide supplies come on the eve of a landmark decision by the Australian Government on the future of Lynas, one of its leading rare-earth mining companies. The Foreign Investment Review Board is debating whether to allow the state-owned China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining to buy a 51 per cent stake.

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