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June 17, 2019 -- The United States has called on Australia and Canada to develop rare earth mineral deposits after China threatened to stop exports to America. Rare earth elements are crucial to advanced U.S. weapons.
It’s no surprise that following U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off the supply of chips and processors to Huawei Technologies, China’s state economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), held three symposiums on rare earth elements to hear views from industry experts, including calls for export controls.
America imported 18,850 tonnes of rare-earth compounds and metals from China in 2018 -- 80 per cent of U.S. imports of the elements.
In 2018, China produced about 120,000 tonnes, while the totals of the next two leading producers -- Australia and the United States -- were 20,000 and 15,000 respectively, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Rare earths are a group of 17 chemically related metallic elements that have magnetic and optical properties useful for making electronics more efficient.
Every advanced weapon in the U.S. arsenal -- from precision-guided bombs to F-35 fighter jets to Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers -- is reliant on components made using rare-earth elements.
Each Virginia-class attack submarine needs 4,170kg of rare-earth materials, while each F-35 uses 417kg. The M1A2 Abrams tank and the Aegis Spy-1 3D radar both rely on Chinese-supplied samarium which is used in samarium-cobalt magnets, while the U.S. Navy’s DDG-51 destroyer uses neodymium, which enhances the power of magnets at high temperatures in its hybrid drive system.
Now Washington is facing a new front in its bitter trade war with the world’s second-biggest economy.