The European Union has announced it will build a stockpile of rare earth elements to boost domestic supply and safe-guard against Chinese dominance. Rare earths are necessary components in a wide array of clean energy and high-tech devices, and China largely controls global supply, supplying 97% of the world’s demand.
As China’s domestic clean energy production and demand has grown, it has imposed export quotas with an eye towards preserving its rare earth resources for its own future use. These limitations have had a significant negative impact on clean energy and technology manufacturers in the West, sending governments into a frenzied search for new mining sources.
The EU plans to store rare earth elements in the form of a mixed carbonate. So far, EU proposals call for an annual procurement of 3,000 tons.
Strategic initiatives to secure rare earth supplies have also taken hold in the United States and Britain. Because the rare earth element supply chain cuts across the manufacturing, defense and science and technology sectors of the global economy, the United States Department of Defense considers the supply of rare earth elements to be a natural security issue. More information can be found in this key briefing, available here: “Rare Earth Metals and U.S. National Security.” The British government has likewise implemented a “strategic metals plan” to guard against future supply shocks stemming from China’s export policies.