Australia moves to find new critical minerals partners but risks China’s ire – by Jonathan Peralman (The Straits Times – June 8, 2023)

SYDNEY – For decades, Australia has been a crucial supplier of the iron ore that has helped to quench China’s insatiable appetite for steel. This massive flow of iron ore – which invoked more than A$150 billion (S$135 billion) a year of sales – enabled China to build apartment blocks, shopping centres and infrastructure projects around the country as its economy expanded.

But, in recent years, China has also invested in other Australian resources for its transformation into a technology superpower. Today, China is a major extractor and processor of critical minerals such as rare earths that are used to produce electric car batteries, superconductors, mobile phones and other high-end technologies.

But as tensions in the region have heightened and concerns emerged about supply chain problems during the Covid-19 pandemic, Canberra has started seeking new “like-minded” partners to extract and process critical minerals to break China’s monopoly.

This push has resulted in a new partnership with Washington – announced following a meeting in May between Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and US President Joe Biden – that could enable the United States to invest in mining in Australia for its defence needs.

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