China And The U.S. Fight Over Australian Rare Earths – by Tim Treadgold (Forbes Magazine – October 9, 2019)

The U.S. hunt for future supplies of rare earths and other critical minerals has led Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to Australia this week where he might not get the reception he was expecting.

China is not only well entrenched in the Australian mining industry but an academic paper released to coincide with Ross’s visit suggest that China could be a more reliable source of project development capital for new mining projects.

Published by the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney the paper’s theme was whether there was scope for government intervention in rare earths, an industry dominated by China but important to many countries because rare earth elements have unique properties.

Trade War Weapon

In 2010, China banned the export of the material to Japan over a fishing dispute and there have been veiled threats of a similar ban being applied on exports to the U.S. as the trade ware worsens.

It’s the threat of an embargo which was raised as a topic last month when the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, met the U.S. President, Donald Trump, in Washington.

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