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Workers dig at a rare earth mine in Ganxian county in central China Workers dig at a rare earth mine in Ganxian county in central China, Dec. 30, 2010 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

Why Trump’s Bid to Boost Rare Earths Mining Is Misguided

, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Lavender Au and Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

The world is in little danger of running out of rare earth minerals, despite their name. They are neither hard to find, nor difficult to mine. But they are in demand, since they are used in components of popular high-tech devices like smartphones, as well as electric cars, wind turbines and even military hardware. Although researchers found a huge trove of rare earth metals in Japanese waters two years ago—enough to supply the world on a “semi-infinite basis,” they said—China currently produces around 85 percent of rare earth oxides and 90 percent of rare earth metals, alloys and magnets. Most of the world’s separation facilities that process these elements and produce rare earth concentrates are also in China. ...

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