Shanghai, China, Dec 22 (EFE).- China has banned the export of technologies for the extraction and separation of rare earths, key to the manufacturing of chips, electric vehicles and military equipment.
China controls more than 80 percent of production of the world’s rare earths – a set of 17 elements essential for the manufacturing of batteries, electric vehicles, windmill turbines and mobile phones, as well as for the aeronautical and defense industries.
The Ministry of Commerce on Thursday published an update to the list of technologies prohibited for export to include “rare earth extraction and separation technology.”
It also restricted exports including other technologies for mining, processing and smelting of these materials, as well as rare earth modification and addition technology for metal materials, and the formulas and synthesis processes of extracting agents to obtain them.
The new rules do not affect rare earths themselves, although Beijing had already announced in November that it would require exporters of these materials to report each sale abroad, becoming the only product subject to this requirement.
In recent years there has been speculation about the possibility that China, the world’s largest producer of rare earths, uses these materials as a political pressure tool within the framework of the trade and tech wars it maintains with the United States, a country that is trying to increase the supplies it obtains domestically and from allies such as Australia.
This month the European Parliament approved a law to boost the supply of strategic raw materials – among them, rare earths – and that, by 2030, the European Union (EU) will be able to extract from its own territory 10 percent of what it consumes each year, processing 40 percent of its demand and recycling 25 percent.
China provides the EU with 98 percent of its rare earths, creating strong dependence regarding these materials.
Bloomberg reported that, until recently, there were practically no rare earth refineries outside China, and that these new bans and restrictions could aim to hinder attempts to develop the industry outside of the Asian giant.
Beijing also recently announced restrictions on the export of gallium and germanium – key metals for the manufacture of semiconductors, and graphite, arguing in both cases that it made these decision for “national security” reasons. EFE