COLUMN-Tariffs lay bare Washington’s rare earths dilemma – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – July 19, 2018)

LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) – The United States Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is aiming to buy 10 tonnes of yttrium oxide this year. Yttrium is one of the rare earth metals that have become increasingly critical to a wide spectrum of modern-day products. It is used in radars, lasers, camera lenses and super-conductors.

It is also about to become more expensive if the United States makes good on its threat to impose more tariffs on China because, to quote the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “nearly all imports of yttrium metal and compounds are derived from mineral concentrates produced in China.”

The same applies to many of the other metals on the DLA’s procurement plans for the year, particularly the 416 tonnes of other non-specific “rare earths”.

Yttrium is just one a host of esoteric, critical minerals on the list of Chinese imports targeted for the next escalation of the simmering trade war between the two countries.

Across the metallic spectrum tariffs will ricochet back on U.S. consumers, not least the country’s own military materials procurement arm. The U.S. administration is of course aware of its Chinese dependency, which is why it is working on a plan to reduce its import reliance for “critical minerals”. Rare earths are on the list.

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