China, the world’s largest producer of rare earths, on Thursday banned the export of technology to make rare-earth magnets, in addition to an already-in-force ban on technology to extract and separate the materials, which are essential.
Rare earths are a group of 17 metals used to make magnets that convert energy into motion for electric vehicles, wind turbines and electronics.
“This should be a wake-up call that dependence on China in any part of the value chain is not sustainable”said Nathan Picarsic, co-founder of geopolitical consultancy Horizon Advisory.
Last December, China’s Ministry of Commerce asked for public feedback on whether to add smarium-cobalt, neodymium-iron-boron, and cerium magnet preparation technology. “Catalogue of Prohibited and Restricted Technologies for Export”.
The list also bans rare earth calcium oxyborate production technology and rare earth metal production technology, adding them to the previous ban on the production of rare earth alloy materials.
The stated objectives of the catalog include the protection of national security and the public interest.
China has significantly tightened rules on the export of several metals this year, part of an escalating battle with the West for control of key minerals.
In August, it introduced export licenses for gallium and germanium, materials used to make chips, and then imposed similar requirements on several types of graphite from December 1.
“China is trying to maintain its dominant position in the market”said Don Swartz, CEO of American Rare Earths, which is developing a rare earth mine and processing facility in Wyoming. “Now It’s a Race”.
The West is fighting
The push to protect its rare earth technology comes as Europe and the United States battle to transition away from rare earths produced by China, which accounts for nearly 90% of global refined output.
China has mastered a solvent extraction process for refining strategic minerals that has been difficult for MP Materials and other Western rare earth companies to deploy due to technical complexity and pollution concerns.
Shares of MP, which has slowly started ramping up rare earths processing in California, jumped more than 10% on Thursday after China’s decision. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Europe faces the challenge of critical metals
Ucore Rare Metals said on Thursday it has completed commissioning of a facility to test its own rare earth processing technology, which is partially funded by the US Department of Defense.
“New technologies will be necessary to thwart Chinese control over these important areas”, said Pat Ryan, CEO of Ucore. Ucore shares rose more than 16%.
It is not clear to what extent China’s rare earth technology is actually exported. Beijing has discouraged exports for years, said Constantine Karayannopoulos, former CEO of Neo Performance Materials, which separates rare earths in Estonia.
“This announcement merely formalizes what everyone knew to be the case”Constantine Karayannopoulos said.