Anne-Marie Brady, professor at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Canterbury in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, specializes in China, and has since 2008 been researching Chinese interests in the polar regions. Some time ago she saw on a Chinese website a map of Antarctica’s mineral resources. After she revealed her find, the map was swiftly removed.
She will in October be delivering a lecture on the subject of “China as Polar Great Power”, which is also the title of her forthcoming book. She says Chinese literature is “very, very clear about China’s interests in Antarctic minerals”. And everyone else’s.
Reading Jack Lifton’s incisive summation of the global rare earth situation posted on InvestorIntel yesterday, and the West’s continuing weakness in that sector, it occurred to me that this is part of a much wider problem. As Jack wrote, the strategy being followed by Chinalco involves a concerted, well-planned consolidation of Chinese interests.
And he added: “While American, European, Brazilian, South African, and Australian rare earth producers and juniors squabble with each other and promote their share prices as their only hope of raising new capital in a market dominated by China’s use … of the majority of the world’s rare earths as well as the majority of all metals, Chinalco is methodically planning to diversify its sources of raw materials and to seek out technology sales or purchases to improve its efficiencies.”
China has for long been focused on mineral security. Compare that with the U.S. and its 100% import dependence for 19 key minerals and the dangers of that situation for American security. So how’s that going? There’s been a great deal of talk in Washington, not too much action.
China, though, hasn’t said much, just getting on with the task.
Back in 2003, Beijing set out its policy. The paper noted that in 1949, the year the Communists came to power, China had only 300 properly developed resource projects, producing just 120,000 tons a year of crude oil, 32 million tons of coal, 160,000 tons of steel, 13,000 tons of non-ferrous metals, 10,000 tons of pyrite and less than 100,000 tons of phosphorous.
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