Global tensions raise concerns over mineral supplies

The United States is entirely dependent on imports for the 17 minerals constituting rare earths, essential in the design of many high-tech components, therefore for the arms industry. However, it is China which currently holds 95% of the production of these metals. 

As tensions against a backdrop of trade war increase between China and the United States, many experts are concerned about the consequences of this addiction, and call on the United States to reorganize its supply chain for these more than precious minerals. Because in fact, if the situation were to become more tense between the two superpowers, China could well be tempted to suspend supplies to the United States, especially since it itself can count on Russia to provide the hydrocarbons and agricultural products which it lacks.

The situation is no better for European countries, just as dependent as the Americans in this area. If Europe has no immediate reason to consider a confrontation with the very distant China, we cannot exclude a scenario of bipolarization opposing the West and a Sino-Russian alliance, with equally problematic consequences. 

It is therefore essential, for the United States as for Europe, to implement solutions to reduce or even eliminate dependence on Chinese rare earths. Several countries have these precious resources: Brazil, Australia, and several African countries, including South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mali. Many of these countries, particularly the poorest, are courted more or less intensely by Chinese and American mining companies, but surprisingly little or nothing by European companies. 

While Europe seeks to equip itself with an autonomous Defense solution, the issue of raw materials, and more particularly rare earths, must be addressed quickly, otherwise this commercial dependence is likely to transform into strategic dependence.

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