China has cornered the rare earth metals market and the critical link they provide to the development of ‘green’ technologies and hi-tech weapons systems

May 01, 2010 | 06:22 AM | Anne Riley

Would-be North American producers of rare earth minerals might be in competition for the same slice of market share, but that doesn't keep them from agreeing on one thing the development of new rare earth projects, while challenging, is not optional.

China supplies as much as 97 percent of rare earths, a complex of 17 elements vital to the advancement of green technologies and high-technology weapon systems. It has been able to provide an adequate supply of rare earths for export, but with the emerging nation's internal demand on the rise, market sources say the need to develop non-Chinese projects is stronger than ever.

"I don't think there's going to be a 'trade war,' but what you're going to find is China's internal demand is increasing and they will take care of their demand first. It's not like they're out to hurt someone else, but they have their own demand," said Ian London, vice president of market development and energy advisor at Toronto-based exploration company Avalon Rare Metals Inc., which hopes to bring its Nechalacho project in the Northwest Territories online by the second half of 2014. "Under those realities of them building their own economy, it falls on suppliers in other parts of the world to develop their own strategies," he said.

Edward F. Cowle, chief executive officer of Salt Lake City, Utah-based exploration venture U.S. Rare Earths Inc., agreed that securing a Western supply of rare earth minerals should be an international priority despite assertions from some analysts that the concern has been overblown.....

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