Rare earths

The ponds left by rare earth mining in Longnan city in Ganzhou, China, in March 2022. (Ding Gang/Caixin)

China's rare earth mining could cause irreversible environmental harm

Despite its economic benefits for locals, rare earth extraction has become quite a headache for the people of Ganzhou, Jiangxi province. They have been left with toxic water and contaminated soil which has an impact on the livelihoods of farmers nearby. With a lack of funding and technology, how can local governments clean up the mines?
People celebrate in the streets with members of Guinea's armed forces after the arrest of Guinea's president, Alpha Conde, in a coup d'etat in Conakry, Guinea, 5 September 2021. (Cellou Binani/AFP)

Guinea coup: Why did non-interventionist China speak up?

Many were caught off-guard when China made forceful statements against the military coup in Guinea. Hasn't China always been circumspect and asked countries to resolve their internal issues well in past such cases? Perhaps Guinea being China’s leading source of bauxite for its aluminum industry is a key motivation. Or perhaps it is a case of finally feeling the need to step up to a greater international role? Zaobao’s China Desk examines the issue.
A Molycorp worker holds a handful of rocks containing rare earth elements during a media tour in Mountain Pass, California, U.S., 13 December 2010. (Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg)

Chinese academic: Will China play the rare earth card against the US?

Despite China’s dominance of the rare earth industry, it will not lightly play this card against the US, simply because it knows it is weaker than the US in various areas and the US can well retaliate. Economics professor Zhu Ying looks at rare earths, the weapon of last resort in China’s defence against the US.
Cranes unload imported iron ore from a cargo vessel at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, 27 October 2019. (Stringer/File Photo/Reuters)

Will China have enough natural resources to sustain its growth?

It is no longer an unqualified truism that China is a vast land of abundant resources, says Chen Hongbin. While it is rich in minerals such as rare earths, it is one of the world’s largest importers of natural gas, oil and iron ore, and is paying through its nose in some cases to reach a level of sufficiency. How can China achieve greater energy security?
A mining/crushing supervisor at MP Materials displays crushed ore before it is sent to the mill at the MP Materials rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, 30 January 2020. (Steve Marcus/File Photo/Reuters)

How to break China's monopoly on rare earths

Much attention has been focused on the burgeoning US-China tech war and the US’s suppression of Chinese companies. But less is known about China’s firm hold on the rare earth supply chain, which has the potential to derail the world’s production of products from the humble smartphone to F-35 aircraft and guided missile systems. In response, the US and its allies, including the EU, Japan and Australia, are actively coalescing around new rare earth strategies. But private investment alone will not be enough to challenge China’s global monopoly in rare earths. Can new international public-private partnerships be the answer?