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china blocks exports of rare earth metals need

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    According to The Independent, global demand for rare earth metals has tripled from 40,000 tonnes to 120,000 tonnes over the past 10 years. But China has cut annual exports from 48,500 tonnes to 31,310 tonnes. And Beijing announced last month that it intended to curb exports at 35,000 tonnes for each of the next six years. Additionally, an internal report by Chinas Ministry of Industry and Information Technology suggested that the Communist country intends to ban outright, the export of five rare earths and restrict supplies of the remaining metals.

    Industry sources have told The Independent that China could halt shipments of at least two metals as early as next year, and that by 2012 it is likely to be producing only enough REE ore to satisfy its own booming domestic demand, creating a potential crisis as Western countries rush to find alternative supplies, and companies open new mines in locations from South Africa to Greenland to satisfy international demand.

    That means that Western nations need to quickly locate alternate sources. European and North American companies are opening mines in Canada, South Africa and Greenland. And corporations are seeking government-backed loans from the United States to establish supplies of rare earth metals needed for guidance systems of missiles and laser-guided weapons.

    The United States and the European Union have called on the World Trade Organization to intervene in Chinas export restrictions on vital rare earth metals, citing various international trade rules that China has violated. China called the complaint ridiculous and unacceptable.

    Jack Lifton, an independent consultant and a world expert on REEs, said: "A real crunch is coming. In America, Britain and elsewhere we have not yet woken up to the fact that there is an urgent need to secure the supply of rare earths from sources outside China. China has gone from exporting 75 per cent of the raw ore it produces to shipping just 25 per cent, and it does not consider itself to be under any obligation to ensure supplies of rare earths to anyone but itself. There has been an effort in the West to set up new mines but these are five to 10 years away from significant production."

    See The Independent for more.
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