Inside every wind turbine, inside computers, phones and other high-tech equipment from medical scanners to electric cars, are materials known as “rare earths”. This small group of 17 elements are in extraordinary demand – but their supply is limited, and most of the existing sources have already been snapped up by China in its quest for ever more rapid economic growth.
Last month China – which controls more than 90% of the reserves of these essential elements – warned that its supplies were diminishing, despite quotas to limit exports. Beijing’s top officials said in a memo: “After more than 50 years of excessive mining, China’s rare earth reserves have kept declining and the years of guaranteed rare earth supply have been reducing.”
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