Rare Earth Less Rare

China recently started to use its supply of rare earth elements as a political bargaining chip - or possibly just a nationalistic play based around their desire to start shifting over their entire car fleet to hybrids, a stated goal.

Any way that you look at it, the move (preventing the export of many rare earth elements) was going to screw over Japan and the US. Japan, never a fan of China (though tied to them economically much more that even the US is) quickly inked an agreement with China's smaller rival to the south, Vietnam (yes - China helped Vietnam in the Vietnamese war, but they are not traditional allies, and because of the Spratly islands and other reasons, they have not been allies for quite some time, and are becoming increasingly antagonistic towards each other).

The US has now figured out a way to deal with the ban also. A US company has decided to reopen a mine near LA which will be able to supply of the US demand within a few years. This mine closed 10 years ago, when Chinese imports put it out of business.
Molycorp's Facilities at Mountain Pass AlanM1 via Wikimedia

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