Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Chinese Rare-Earth Production Rose 25% In 2022 - US Geological Survey

Chinese Rare-Earth Production

China's rare earths mining production increased by 25 percent last year and its share of global output by double digits, according to data released on Tuesday by the US Geological Survey (USGS).

China has a virtual monopoly on most of the 17 rare earth elements (REEs) found on the periodic table - minerals used in a wide-range of advanced industrial and military applications. The Biden administration has invested or allocated billions in a bid to break its reliance on China for rare earth elements, along with other critical materials.

China's rare-earth production increased from 168,000 metric tons in 2021 to 210,000 in 2022 while its share of world output reached 70 percent, the USGS data revealed.

China also maintained its dominant position with respect to rare-earth reserves - those materials deemed economically recoverable - boasting 44 million tons, or 30 percent of the world total.

US output, meanwhile, rose 2 percent to 43,000 tons and mineral reserves increased by 28% to 2.3 million.

Although the US has one rare-earth mine, it must send 100% of the material produced to China for processing in order to make final components.

A US State Department official in early December said the US is looking at funding about a dozen mineral projects overseas to mine resources used in low-carbon technologies. The official said the United States will need an "exponential" amount of rare earths.

In addition to the economic and supply chain impact, Washington is also worried about Chinese materials that can be found in thousands of US weapons systems.

In early 2022, the Pentagon halted delivery of F-35 jets upon discovery that a subcontractor used a Chinese-origin rare earth magnet on an engine part. In October, the Defense Department issued a waiver allowing Lockheed Martin to resume deliveries of the jets while setting about looking for alternative sources.

Marina Zhang, an associate professor of research at the Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney, told Sputnik the US will be hard-pressed to close this gap with China in light of structural advantages developed over the past 15 years, including lower mine permitting timelines, relatively lower labor and environmental costs, and talent and patent accumulations.

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