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China Curbs The Export of Rare Earths Processing Technology

China moves to maintain dominance of rare earths sector, by banning the export of production technology for rare earth metals and alloy materials, plus tech linked to some rare earth magnets

Ren Limin, a worker at the Jinyuan smelter, pours the rare earth metal lanthanum into a mould near the town of Damao, Inner Mongolia. Photo: Reuters.


China on Thursday banned the export of technology to extract and separate the strategic metals, such as rare earths.

The move, by the world’s most dominant processor of rare earths, stems from an overhaul of a list of technologies deemed key to national security.

It comes amid increasing talk in neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Mongolia about setting up rare-earth production facilities, which may have spurred concern on growing efforts to reduce China’s stranglehold on global processing of rare earths.


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China’s Commerce Ministry sought public opinion last December on the potential move to add the technology to its “Catalogue of Technologies Prohibited and Restricted from Export”.

It also banned the export of production technology for rare earth metals and alloy materials as well as technology to prepare some rare earth magnets.

The latest move comes as Europe and the United States scramble to wean themselves off rare earths from China, which accounts for 90% of global refined output.

Rare earths are a group of 17 metals used to make magnets for use in electric vehicles, wind turbines and other electronics.

China has mastered the solvent extraction process to refine the strategic minerals, which Western rare earth companies have struggled to deploy due to technical complexities and concerns over the toxic pollution from the production of rare earth elements.

But Beijing has also had intensifying trade disputes with both the United States and the European Union over its massive state subsidies for electric vehicles and solar panels, while suffering an exodus of foreign investment amid a Western push to ‘de-risk’ because of geopolitical tensions.


  • Reuters with additional input and editing by Jim Pollard


NOTE: This report was amended on December 21, 2023 for minor edits.




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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