Thursday, 19 November 2009

China, Rare Earth Metals & The Emergence of a New Global Power.

When the Afghan war began, and the Russian involvement in the "Stans", it became common to talk about Central Asia being the "New Great Game" for the warring superpowers. But the real new Great Game is being played in the swamps of the Niger Delta, on the borders of Colombia-Venezuela, in the metal mines of the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and now in the rare earth mines of the world.
If you think this sounds like part of a conspiracy theory, think again. These are the words of Newsnight’s economics editor, Paul Mason.  "97% of the specialist metals that are crucial to green technology are currently mined in China".  They are used in rechargeable batteries that are used to store power from renewable energy sources and for use in electric cars, etc.  They are also used in certain missile guidance systems (so, it's swings and roundabouts, I guess).

For a better explanation of why rare earth metals are important watch Paul Mason's Newsnight report, his blog provides an account of the U.S. and Japanese role.


  1. A ray of hope for the U.S. in the race for rare earth metals dominance is U.S. Rare Earths, Inc.(, a U.S. company with vast American reserves that has lobbied Washington fiercely for legislation to recognize the strategic importance of rare earth metals. The new U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which was signed into law by President Obama, shows that the Federal government has now recognized the value and importance of a domestic supply chain for rare earths. U.S. Rare Earths, Inc. is a “completely American owned” rare earth mining development venture that will be prominently included in the final legislated report.

  2. Well that must be another reason for the new US military bases agreement with Colombia

  3. As if they need it. I'm interested to see how things work out in Bolivia - they are sitting on a fair bit of Lithium. They have the potential to profit from it, but I suspect they may lack the required expertise - so they might turn to the private sector.