Why China’s stranglehold on rare minerals could cost us the earth

The Sunday Times has reported on how western concerns continue to heighten over whether Beijing could limit exports of rare earths to its rivals’ disadvantage.

The article compares the impact of rare earth supply shortages on valuable green economy sectors like electric vehicles and offshore wind to the global shortage of semiconductors, dubbed “chipageddon”, which is hitting automotive and smartphone production.  

Pensana’s Chairman Paul Atherley said: “There’s a more prosaic problem, which is that China is also trying to decarbonise its economy. They’re going to spend a lot of money on electric vehicles and wind power. China is going to limit supply of rare earths because it’s going to need them all for itself.”

Work began at Pensana’s project within the Saltend Chemicals Park in Hull, one of the first new separation facilities outside China for over a decade and ideally placed to aid Britain’s efforts to crucially establish an independent, sustainable rare earth supply chain.

The plant received planning permission last month. It requires investment of £100 million, will take about six months to clear the site and a further 12 months to build with production commencing from 2023.

The article cites a UK Government Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, carried out in March and the UK Government’s Project Defend initiative to “diversify the UK’s supply in critical goods” such as rare earth minerals. 

Pensana plc (LON:PRE) explores and mines neodymium, praseodymium, and rare earth minerals. The company is looking to establish the world’s first fully sustainable magnet metal rare earth oxide producer at the Saltend Chemicals Park in the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership Yorkshire, UK.

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