China is ready to tighten its grip on rare earth metals, forcing manufacturers to produce more goods in China, the New York Times is reporting.
China is home to about 93% of the world’s supply of rare earth metals, important metals and minerals used in a number of products ranging from missiles to Priuses. The country has steadily decreased the amount of metals it allows to export, which is causing concern around the world.
Deng Xiaoping once observed that the Mideast had oil, but China had rare earth elements. As the organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has done with oil, China is now starting to flex its muscle.
Even tighter limits on production and exports, part of a plan from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, would ensure China has the supply for its own technological and economic needs, and force more manufacturers to make their wares here in order to have access to the minerals.
In each of the last three years, China has reduced the amount of rare earths that can be exported. This year’s export quotas are on track to be the smallest yet. But what is really starting to alarm Western governments and multinationals alike is the possibility that exports will be further restricted.
This will throw a wrench into any plans for greener technologies including hybrids and wind turbines. As Earth2Tech points out, there’s much concern about the world’s lithium supply when it comes to hybrids and electrics, but less notice of the the need for neodymium, a rare earth metal used in the Toyota Prius.
China has not officially announced its rare earth metal plans. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has submitted a plan for the metals, which awaits approval. The head of the ministry will be speaking this Thursday at a conference in Beijing.
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