Column: China flexes critical metals muscles with export curbs – by Andy Home (Reuters – July 10, 2023)

China’s threat to curb exports of gallium and germanium from the start of August marks an escalation in the global competition for critical minerals and metals. Both are esoteric metals with multiple applications across a spectrum of cutting-edge technologies, particularly silicon chips for the semiconductor sector.

As such, China’s move seems a calibrated response to the US Chips Act and the increasing pressure on US allies to restrict sales of sensitive microchip technology to the country. The announcement a day before the US Independence Day holidays was a symbolically-charged reminder that the West is highly dependent on China for many raw material inputs to its high-tech industrial base.

Export controls will be short-term disruptive to both gallium and germanium markets but Western countries should be able to adapt over time. The big question, however, is what might come next.

Gallium and germanium

Both gallium and germanium are extremely rare metals and are derived only as by-products from the aluminum and zinc processing streams respectively.

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