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China's dominance in rare earth market unlikely to be undermined in short term
Mar 17, 2021 00:00CST
Source:SMM
Leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India would determine relevant responses to China at an online summit held on March 12 in order to reduce the dependence on China’s rare earth, according to media reports. This meeting was reportedly to be the highest-level meeting so far in the "Quadruple Security Dialogue" among the US, Japan, India and Australia.

SHANGHAI, Mar 17 (SMM)— Leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India would determine relevant responses to China at an online summit held on March 12 in order to reduce the dependence on China’s rare earth, according to media reports. This meeting was reportedly to be the highest-level meeting so far in the "Quadruple Security Dialogue" among the US, Japan, India and Australia.

In order to reduce China’s dominance in the rare earth market, the abovementioned countries will jointly build a rare earth supply chain and develop low-cost, low radioactive scrap emission rare earth refining technologies, and plan to procure government-owned financial institutions to provide bank loans to rare earth mining and refining companies.

However, China's dominance in the global rare earth market is unlikely to weaken in the short term. China has many advantages in the rare earth industry chain. It will take at least ten years for the US to achieve self-sufficiency in the rare earth supply chain and reduce its dependence on China's rare earth. China is the only country that can provide all the 17 rare earth metals. 90% of China's rare earth reserves are concentrated at the Baiyunebo mine in Inner Mongolia. 

Global leading rare earth smelting and separation technology

China has cutting-edge rare earth smelting and separation technology with separation purity over 99.9%. According to the Rare Earth Industry Association, China's rare earth smelting accounts for 88.2% of the global share. In 1972 , Xu Guangxian, the "Father of Rare Earths in China", started an "unprecedented" attempt in the field of rare earth separation and purification technology. The chemical properties of the 17 kinds of rare earth elements are very similar, leading to difficult separation and purification. At that time, ion exchange method and fractional crystallisation method were two international mainstream rare earth separation methods whose costs were high. Low purity of the extracted rare earth elements was not suitable for large-scale industrial production. Xu used extraction technology to complete this emergency military task. The separation coefficient of praseodymium and neodymium hit a global record.

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