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.