The almost exclusive production of the materials known as rare earths, by the Chinese regime, decreased considerably due to the increasing participation of other countries in this activity.
Now countries like the United States, Australia, and Burma among others are beginning to stand out in this industry, producing about 40% of the world total, according to Statista.
The previous dependence on the Chinese regime system to obtain these materials of great strategic importance, necessary in the production of technology-based industries, is limited.
In fact, the United States is building a plant to process rare earths, which would avoid shipping them to Chinese territory, where they were previously in production.
They are used as raw materials for the production of microchips, electronics, and electric motors, including everything from smartphones to missiles.
In particular, their extensive use in the electric vehicle industry, in hybrid cars, in clean energy applications, and in high-tech industries, has increased demand considerably.
Another factor that makes the extraction of rare earths difficult, in addition to their scarcity, is the complexity of the chemical processes used and the high costs of purifying environmental pollution, caused by the resulting toxic wastewater.
The rare earths group is made up of 17 elements that are used in a wide variety of applications, with appearances ranging from the iron-gray to silvery lustrous metals.
They are also typically soft, malleable and ductile and generally reactive, especially at elevated temperatures or when finely divided. They are found in proportions ranging from 60 parts per million to about 0.5 parts per million.
They include minerals such as bastasite, monazite, and loparite, as well as scandium, yttrium, and lanthanides, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
While the Chinese regime remains the world’s largest producer, the scenario that could arise from an eventual suspension of its exports tends to be minimized and, apparently, does not look so bleak.
For Eugene Gholz, a rare earth expert and associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, the situation might not be so difficult.
One of the most costly aspects would be to meet the high environmental standards required in the United States.