China To Closely Monitor Rare Earth Industry As Trade War Continues

Miners are seen at the Bayan Obo mine containing rare earth minerals in Inner Mongolia China

Of course, whether or not the U.S. finds alternative supply chains is of secondary importance: what matters is for China to believe the USA is no longer a hostage to weaponized Chinese rare earth metals.

The report includes 61 specific recommendations - including low-interest loans and "Buy American" requirements for defence companies - to boost domestic production of minerals essential for the manufacture of mobile phones and a host of other consumer goods, as well as fighter jets. The country relies on China for 80 per cent of its imports, according to the US Geological Survey.

While China has yet to confirm or deny its reported plans to restrict rare earth exports to the United States, a number of local media outlets have suggested that Beijing could hit back at U.S. tariffs by using strategic minerals as a trump card.

Mei agreed that it is necessary to set up export controls for strategically important products that China produces in bulk, such as rare earths, saying it may be hard to track the exports. China's top state economic planning body is studying proposals to control exports and will put measures in place soon.

A report by the U.S. Commerce Department recommends the government strengthen relations with foreign companies that provide minerals critical to military development.

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Experts, however, have warned that such an option would harm the Chinese economy and backfire on the regime. The Pentagon has long supported efforts to require military contractors to buy domestically sourced minerals, though there are no current U.S. rare-earth processing facilities.

The US Department of Defense has held talks with Malawi's Mkango Resources Ltd and other rare earth miners across the globe about their supplies of strategic minerals, part of a plan to find diversified reserves outside of China, a department official said on Wednesday.

The world's largest rare-earth producer outside of China will prioritize the USA military's needs when it starts production at a plant it's building in Texas, the company's chief executive officer said.

In 2010, Beijing cut off exports of rare earths to Japan after a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japan Coast Guard ships in the East China Sea. "And that's why the WTO basically gave China on the environmental restrictions that we in the United States have to adhere to". China announced this week that it will not be taking a more personal role in the country's rare earth industry, given how it has now become a vital resource that could persuade the United States to a fairer trade deal.

California's Mountain Pass mine is the only operating US rare earths facility.

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