The Future Battlefields: Rare Earth Elements – by Ariel Cohen (Forbes Magazine – January 26, 2023)

Sweden’s state-owned mining enterprise LKAB may have given the West hope in its quest for energy independence and containing China. Two weeks ago, LKAB announced it had discovered nearly one million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE).

REEs include 17 elements that are vital for advanced batteries, lasers, electronics, and all emerging technology of the 21st century, including the energy transition.

After the end of the Cold War, a series of US and EU policy failures resulted in China nearly monopolizing REE production and refinement, with the EU importing 98% of its REE from China. The US is not much better, with 78% of its imports coming from China.

With the West decoupling itself from Russian energy, its overwhelming reliance on China for REEs has been rightfully identified as a cause of concern. Many of the same red flags which should have prompted European disentanglement from Russia in the 2010s, especially after 2014’s invasion of Crimea and Donbas, apply to contemporary China.

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