China reveals new strategy of stockpiling rare earths
We don't need no steenkin' WTO
Tech supply chain jitters are set to resurface after it emerged that China has begun the strategic stockpiling of rare earth minerals.
State-run business title the China Securities Journal broke the news, but didn’t elaborate on exactly when the programme had begun.
China produces 90 per cent of the world's
rare earth minerals...
Buying up and hoarding supplies of the precious minerals will help in times of scarcity, which could be just around the corner given China’s long-term strategy of reducing the quantity of rare earths it mines. Prices of rare earth minerals over the past year have dropped significantly, prompting some to speculate that this is a strategic move to drive them up again.
The government enacted new regulations last week limiting production according to a strict quota system, and called on law enforcement agencies to clamp down on any illegal mining in the country, the paper said in a separate report.
The news will be met with some trepidation by the technology industry, which relies on many of these rare earth minerals to produce its wares.
The US, Europe and Japan have all filed complaints to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over what they claim is a deliberate attempt by China – which produces 90 per cent of the world’s supply of rare earths – to throttle supply and drive up prices.
Last week they pushed for a resolution, requesting that the WTO set up a dispute settlement panel to decide on their claims.
“These materials are key inputs in a multitude of US manufacturing sectors and American-made products, including hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, energy-efficient lighting, steel, advanced electronics, automobiles, petroleum and chemicals,” said US trade representative Ron Kirk.
“It is vital that US workers and manufacturers obtain the fair and equal access to raw materials like rare earths that China specifically agreed to when it joined the WTO.”
For its part, China claims it is scaling back its mining efforts for environmental reasons and to conserve supplies.
A China Daily report from April claimed that the country now has just 30 per cent of the world’s reserves, down from 50 per cent a couple of years ago. ®
Watch and learn
> China – which produces 90 per cent of the world’s supply ... now has just 30 per cent of the world’s reserves
It seems to me they've been reading up on the history of OPEC and realised that there is a long (if not honourable) history of leveraging the supply and demand equation for their
environmental reasons national profit.
Luckily for the chinese, it appears they are immune to the fate that befalls other countries who get in the way of " ... US workers and manufacturers [desire for] access to raw materials". I just wouldn't like to be in the shoes of whoever is sitting on top of the other 70% or the world's reserves.
Re: Watch and learn
We are getting worried - especially since we have the USA's rightful oil and water as well
However the national defence plan - issuing everyone with a hockey stick and telling them that the opening of the season is delayed until the invaders are thrown out - looks like it could work
What actually are the WTO rules/agreements?
I'd have thought that the WTO rules would specify equal treatment, in that China could not sell rare earths to (say) Germany on better terms that it did to America. Do the WTO rules say that if you have a mineral resource in your country, then you have to mine it and sell it to any foreign country that wants it?
So what if they are stockpiling?
I thought the reason why China has a monopoly on rare earths is that they are the only people mining them, the others having given up because it requires lots of chemical processing to get the required metals (NIMBY-averse) and (effectively) China do it cheaper.
China now want to not rape their country quite so much, so are trying to close down the more dodgy ones. Before they do this, they need a stockpile of rare metals, since their economy depends a lot on producing the tech products that these metals are required for.
If by stockpiling and not mining this drives the price of rare earth metals up, then that will make mines elsewhere in the world profitable again, and remove the Chinese monopoly on rare earth metals.
Re: So what if they are stockpiling?
If the supplies have diminished this much, then they have every right to stock pile or even limit the mining, they also have the right to ensure they get the best return for it.
On the flipside of the coin, WTF is the world so reliant on China? Have there been no lessons learnt from the likes of the gas feud between Russia and Ukraine. We should be encouraging and investing in other countries who also have these minerals to ensure there is a fair market.