Home > Uncategorized > Rare Mineral Dispute with China

Rare Mineral Dispute with China

The ore monazite


On March 13 of this year, the United States, Japan, and the EU opened up a lawsuit against China who controls a whopping 95% of some of the rarest minerals in the world. Natural resources battles are fought not only over oil and water, but over minerals around the world that are used to produce a lot of technology- computers, TVs, cell phones, car parts and batteries, and much more. Many of these rare minerals that are being fought over are minerals that are located in small amounts that do everything from hydraulic breaking in cars, making the vivid colors we see on our televisions, powering fluorescent lighting, and most importantly as alternate forms on energy.

The new trade action seeks to force China to loosen export restrictions that other nations argue has kept the price of rare-earth metals artificially high outside the People’s Republic. The U.S. Department of Energy says that deployment of clean energy technology could be slowed in the coming years by supply challenges for at least five rare-earth metals. Scientists all around the world are searching more frantically every day for new breakthrough technologies for their countries with these alternative mineral energies, and are optimistic about getting China to “share” outside of the monopoly that they have on these alternate energy minerals.

The WTO action this month amounts to an opening act in a process that could take months or years. The United States, Europe, and Japan argue that China imposes several unfair export restraints on the critical materials, including quotas, duties, and high pricing requirements. Officially, the nations have requested “consultations” with China;however,  if those negotiations fail to achieve a resolution in 60 days, the countries that launched the complaints may request establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel to begin getting more serious about the rights to these minerals. This will definitely be an interesting process to follow in the next few months, considering how “green Earth” crazy many people in the United States and around the world have become. The outcome of this action against China will definitely have a large impact on the next few years’ alternative energy plans.

  1. April 2, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Interesting! I think our next biggest natural resources will be those rare minerals. And I think this is the another reason why Japan, USA and other service oriented countries to invest in electronic recycling to re-use the minerals and the metals to cut down the costs and the resources.
    Without those minerals, many of the electronic manufacturing companies will suffer from the the inflation in the price of those minerals.
    If our future is depends on those small micro-computer chipcs, maybe we should secure all of the mines first.

  2. April 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    The first thing that popped into my head was that the situation seems very similar to oil right now, where only a few countries have large amounts of resources that other developed or developing countries depend on. It made me wonder if there will ever be a truly sustainable energy option, where countries are not beholden to resources that others control.

    Like Plankton says, I think this means that the US in particular should look into recycling programs that would help reuse the technology or extract material that can be manufactured again into other products to lesson dependence. What I also found interesting about the article was that it said that US scientists are currently trying to research ‘green’ technology that does not rely so heavily upon these rare minerals, so that should the negotiations with China fall through in the next few months/years, the US green energy industry is not dependent on a resource they have a hard time obtaining.

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