Tennessee Refinery Could Break Chinese Chokehold on Two Critical Minerals – by Natalie Liu (Voice of Amercia – August 15, 2023)


A solution to potential shortages of two critical minerals used in making semiconductors and advanced military equipment — exports of which were restricted by China this month — may be lying in some waste storage ponds in central Tennessee.

Owners of a zinc processing facility in the southern U.S. state say they are developing a plan to extract the two minerals — gallium and germanium — from the ponds where for years the company has deposited the residue from its refining of zinc from five mines located in central and eastern Tennessee.

Now the company — Netherlands-headquartered Nyrstar — is looking for ways to finance the project. Industry experts say the United States should be willing to pay the price to develop a guaranteed source of the minerals, which are deemed critical for the manufacture of the tiny chips that control electronic devices ranging from smart bombs to refrigerators.

Beijing announced last month that it was imposing export controls on the two minerals effective Aug. 1 in what was seen as retaliation for U.S. export controls on finished computer chips that China could use in the manufacture of high-tech weapons.

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