I ran across this item in a Jane’s Newsletter this morning:
US, Japan agree to diversify rare earth minerals. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara agreed on 28 October that diversifying sources of rare earth minerals was a priority in the wake of China’s freeze on exports to Japan. These minerals are indispensible to modern defence systems and see commercial use in mobile phones, wind turbines, televisions and hybrid electric drives
Rare earth elements, with names like Yttrium, Scandium, Lanthanum and Praeseodymium, are critical to a modern industrial society. They appear in lasers, high tech alloys, superconductors, and much else. China is applying Mercantilist practices to corner a larger share of the global market in high end electronics. They are the largest producer of the strategic REE’s and see this as an advantage in a geopolitical sense as well.
It will not work however. They may well be the current largest producer, but these elements exist all over the world. In the short term they will gain an advantage. Over the medium to longer term they will accomplish the same thing ITAR regulations accomplished for the United States. They will create a thriving industry elsewhere and it will eventually ‘eat their lunch’.
To paraphrase an old saw: “You can’t fool Mother Market.”