Report: China Resumes Rare Earth Shipments to the U.S.
The New York Times, again with the scoop:
The Chinese government abruptly ended on Thursday its unannounced embargo of exports of crucial strategic minerals to the United States, Europe and Japan, although shipments to Japan still encountered some difficulties, four rare earth industry officials said.
After blocking shipments of raw rare earth minerals to Japan since Sept. 21, and to the United States and Europe since Oct. 18, Chinese customs officials, without explanation, allowed shipments to resume to all three destinations, said industry officials who insisted on anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue. Resumed shipments to Japan still face additional scrutiny and some delays.
The report comes just after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she would discuss the issue with Chinese officials on a trip to Asia this week.
While China may no longer be blocking the shipments, the country has made its point loud and clear: China has the power and the United States doesn’t. It’s an uncomfortable position for the U.S. government to be in. Because China is estimated to control 97 percent of the world’s rare earth element production, it controls supply. The United States is very dependent on rare earths. They’re used in hundreds of everyday consumer goods, as well as military and clean energy technology.
So don’t expect concerns about rare earths to disappear. It’s likely to remain a top priority for lawmakers like Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) (assuming, of course, that she wins re-election).
For more on the issue, see my story on the struggle to develop a U.S. rare earths industry.