A new clean energy trade dispute has prompted China to halt shipments of rare earth elements to the US. China is world's largest producer of rare earth metals, the country controls about 97 percent of rare earth production and this is not expected to change anytime soon as Chinese miners have many cost advantages, including subsidies, lax environmental laws, fewer safety requirements and cheap labor.
Rare earth minerals have become an increasingly hot topic in recent years as small quantities of these minerals are required for all types of high-tech equipment, from consumer electronics such as PCs, cell phones and TV screens to wind turbines and hybrid cars, as well as military technologies such as missile guidance systems.
Experts fear China will increasingly tighten exports to force companies to open high-tech manufacturing plants in the country, so China can export finished goods instead of just the minerals.
U.S. rare earth companies have begun looking to reopen old mines and search for new deposits, but industry experts say that relaunching an independent U.S. supply chain could take 15 years.
Industry experts have suggested that China hopes to attract Western companies to set up shop near its rare earth mineral supply. China may also be aiming to export finished products which use rare earth minerals, rather than just sell the minerals.