U.S. has for years been dependent on China, the world’s biggest producer by a huge margin. The Asian country has enjoyed a near-monopoly in the rare earth market, representing between 80 percent and 90 percent of global output.
Cracks in that market dominance are beginning to appear, however, as Australia has recently emerged as a competitive supplier. From 2013 to 2018, Australia’s annual output of REEs exploded more than 1,600 percent, from around 1,000 tonnes to 19,000 tonnes, according to consultancy firm Roskill.
China’s dominance poses a considerable economic and national security risk to the U.S., one that’s become all the more apparent in the months since trade relations between Beijing and Washington turned sour. “Control of the rare earth supply gives Beijing both economic and military advantages over the U.S.,” writes Michael Silver, CEO of American Elements, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.