China is tightening regulations on rare earths production, seeing it as a strategic trump card. The country’s consumption of rare earths is expected to surge in the next few years, therefore also the need to reduce exports. The government is also intensifying surveillance to check illegal mining for rare earths, acknowledging shortfalls in implementing existing rules.
Rare earths are a group of 17 chemical elements that are used in everything, from high tech consumer electronics to military equipment. China leads the world in the production and refining of rare earths, accounting for 58 per cent. But this is down from the 90 per cent which was the case four years ago. The U.S. and Australia have ramped up production and refining of rare earths, emerging as alternate suppliers and reducing China’s advantage.
Worldwide, the competition for rare earths is intensifying, with the Quad nations cooperating in funding new production technologies and development projects and leading the way in drafting new international rules.