As I have been writing for some time, China controls the rare earth magnet market. With the push for more wind farms and electric vehicles and China’s own growth in these industries, China may stop exporting except within a completed manufactured product.
“Countries and companies that have or plan to develop industries that need rare earth minerals to make products are concerned about China’s growing consumption, which they fear will eliminate China’s exports of rare earths,” said W. David Menzie, chief of the international minerals section at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
China has also encouraged companies that use rare earths to locate their manufacturing facilities in China, Menzie told TechNewsDaily. But some companies fear moving because of concerns about intellectual property protection, he added.
China is fast becoming known, rightly or wrongly, as the king of IP ripoffs and few companies want to take the chance of partnering with them, especially on their own turf. Then, of course, for socially conscientious companies that want to create manufacturing jobs in the US, moving to China is not an option.
There is some pressure on Congress to provide incentives to support the mining of existing rare earth deposits in the US but the technology to process it still lies with the Chinese. Some are speculating the next resource wars will not be held over oil but rare earth metals.
Rare earth neodymium magnets are critical to the wind industry, including the V-LIM, and while there are plans to reopen Mountain Pass in California for rare earth mining, there is no ready solution in sight despite neodymium being a critical part of all weapons guidance systems and homeland security.
As one of the worst polluters on the planet, knowing the future of green energy, homeland security and the weapons and guidance systems on everytank, fighter jet and aircraft carrier relies on foreign relations with China is a bit scary.