The remote Outback region of northern Australia would seem an unlikely outpost in the simmering global trade war, but the mining hot spot may help solve a critical issue for the U.S. — the supply of rare earths.
Last October, two U.S. Geological Survey scientists visited a newly recognized type of rare earths deposit about 100 miles southeast of Halls Creek in Western Australia. Rare earths, a group of 17 vital elements needed in components for missile systems, consumer electronics and electric vehicles, have become a more important battleground after China signaled it may restrict shipments to the U.S.
“All of a sudden, you’ve got the U.S. government realizing they have a problem,” said George Bauk, chief executive officer of Northern Minerals Ltd., who has held talks in Washington and hosted the U.S. scientists at the company’s remote Browns Range project.
“The reason why you are seeing the pressure in the rare earths space is because of the military applications — you are talking about security.”
Trump last month ordered the Defense Department to spur the production of a slew of rare-earth magnets used in consumer electronics, military hardware and medical research, amid concerns China will restrict exports of the products.
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