Dependence on China for vital minerals makes Britain vulnerable, MPs say


Dependence on China for rare earth minerals puts the UK in a vulnerable position because the “whole future” of manufacturing is based on them, a select committee of parliamentarians said on Tuesday.

Critical Minerals Association founder Jeff Townsend was asked which sector in the UK was the most vulnerable given China’s dominance in Critical Minerals. said it will affect all major industries such as electric vehicles, space and technology. Advanced robotics, and weaponry.

MPs say China is likely to remain dominant for the next 10 to 15 years, and the UK will engage with mineral-rich countries to build supply chains outside of communist-controlled China. You are warned that you must

Townsend, who has been lobbying governments to support the critical minerals industry for more than a decade, said the recent Consolidated Review Update, which highlighted the Critical Minerals Strategy, was a “decent” document, but the proposal was well supported by the Treasury Department. said no.

China dominates critical minerals

Rare-earth minerals consumers became aware of Beijing’s ability to use the resources as a political tool in 2010 after the regime restricted exports following a vessel collision near the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing and Japan claim sovereignty over. I started noticing. However, the government did not begin to oppose China’s domination of the market until recently.

Data from the UK Critical Minerals Intelligence Center show that China has a monopoly on the production of 12 of the 18 minerals, with Australia, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Russia, South Africa and Vietnam producing the others. is the largest producer of Six.

As for mining, Guillaume Pitron, French journalist and author of “The Rare Metals War,” said that 80% of the world’s rare earth mineral mining came from China until alternative providers began appearing on the market five years ago. I said yes. China currently provides about 58-60% of global production.

As far as refining is concerned, the majority is also done in China. Townsend said the country’s control in the midstream of the most important mineral production ranges from his 60% to his 99%.

About three-quarters of the DRC’s cobalt is refined in China, said Henry Sanderson, a journalist and author of “Volt Rush.”

Epoch Times photo
Rare earth minerals produced by Australia’s Lynas Corp at its Mount Weld operations are on display near Rubberton, Western Australia, August 23, 2019. (Melanie Burton/Reuters)

Pitron told lawmakers that while the United States, Australia and France produced and refined rare earth minerals in the 1980s, China has become more competitive by using cheap labor and ignoring environmental costs. He said production was partially or completely closed because he could offer a certain price.

Asked when the Chinese government began treating rare minerals as strategic resources, Sanderson said that while Chinese leaders began emphasizing the strategic value of rare minerals in the 1980s, lithium, nickel, The focus is now on minerals needed for electric vehicles, such as cobalt, he said. Ten years later.

He also said Beijing’s so-called Belt and Road Initiative is based on former leader Jiang Zemin’s campaign to offer loans to African and Latin American countries in exchange for mineral resources.

Guillaume told parliamentarians that some Western rare-earth mineral producers tried to survive in the 1990s but did not because the Chinese regime’s ignorance of environmental and social impacts killed the global market. rice field. Experts say the regime is still manipulating prices to ensure there are no mining competitors.

He also suggested that China is further distorting the market by offering certain auto customers cheaper quotes and selling the same products to Tesla at higher prices.

mineral-rich ally

But Sanderson said the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t hold all the cards.

“With a lot of minerals, you know, the West actually has a huge advantage because we have all these allies who are very mineral rich, like Australia. China needs these materials,” he said.

The United States will pass the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022. The law includes provisions to subsidize electric vehicles that use minerals not produced by “foreign affiliates.”

Praising the actions of the Trump and Biden administrations on the resilience of critical minerals, Guillaume believes the market will be more balanced in 15 years.

Rare earths mined and processed into concentrates at Mount Weld, Western Australia after being shipped to the Lynas Mill in Geben, Malaysia.
Rare earths mined and processed into concentrates at Mount Weld, Western Australia on July 3, 2014 after being shipped to the Lynas Mill in Geben, Malaysia. (Sonali Paul/Reuters)

The UK recently signed a partnership agreement on minerals South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Canadaand Kazakhstan.

Commenting on what the UK can do, Sanderson said the UK is probably unlikely to launch a large-scale package like an IRA, but the first thing the UK can do is to “invest in countries such as Indonesia, Chile and Australia.” “And we will try to build processing in the UK and parts of the supply chain so that we can remap the supply chain.”

He also said the UK could consider helping develop new technologies that use different types of minerals, such as sodium-ion batteries, which could potentially replace lithium-ion batteries.