The scramble for rare earths carries big geopolitical risks – by Misha Glenny (Financial Times – September 26, 2022)

But without these metals there are limited solutions to our planetary problems

The war in Ukraine has demonstrated just how inadvisable over-dependence on a single supplier can be. Russia’s dominance in the European gas market turned into a geopolitical nightmare in the space of a few weeks.

Just imagine if a single country provided you with 90 per cent of your needs for essential commodities. Now imagine how you’d feel if that country was China. Actually, we don’t need to use our imagination because that is exactly the reality for Europe’s galloping consumption of rare earth metals.

About five years ago, the west started to wake up to this awkward situation and decided to do something about it. But, as the EU, UK and US scramble to diversify the supply chains of rare earths and other critical raw materials, they are discovering that it’s not so easy. Left to its own devices, the market will never wean itself off Chinese production. Governments must intervene.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of China’s mastery of critical raw materials. There is no green transition, no internet, no nano medical research, no advanced weaponry, basically virtually no technical solutions to our planetary problems, without them.

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