The UK and US are pushing back against China’s “chokehold” on global supplies of rare earth metals, used to manufacture key electronic items.
Metals company Pensana is constructing a £125m minerals processing plant at the Port of Hull that it aims to have operational by next year the Telegraph first reported. Meanwhile, US senators have proposed a law to increase domestic supplies of rare earth metal which will ease the country’s reliance on China by building a strategic reserve of minerals by 2025 according to a Friday statement by lawmakers.
“The Chinese Communist Party has a chokehold on global rare-earth element supplies, which are used in everything from batteries to fighter jets,” said Republican Tom Cotton, who proposed the bill along with Democrat Mark Kelly.
Western countries’ rare earth resources are almost entirely dependent on China, which processes around 90 per cent of supplies. A recent US survey found that eighty per cent of the US’ rare earth imports in 2019 were from the East Asian superpower.
China’s dominance in the sector began to raise concerns in 2011 when Beijing cut off supplies to Japan amid a diplomatic row, sending costs soaring. Under Kelly and Cotton’s Bill the US would need to build enough stockpiles of the rare minerals to supply the army, tech sector and other essential infrastructure for one year.
London listed Pensana is one of only three major producers of outside of China and the only in Europe. The company’s minerals separation facility, which will be built in Saltend Chemicals Plant, has a target of producing enough refined metals to meet 5 per cent of global demand, becoming one of the world’s largest hubs of rare earths processing.