China dominates the processing of rare earth metals. But increasingly, China is importing rare earth metals for processing as domestic mining has fallen, which is spurring Chinese investment in foreign rare earth mining operations. "Rare earths are a group of 17 metals critical to many high-tech applications. ... After rare earth ores are mined, they have to be crushed and ground up to extract the metals from the minerals. Chemical procesess separate out individual rare earth elements, and further refining and alloying processes produce high-purity metals for use in manufacturing. China essentially has a monopoly on every step beyond the first phase of digging ores out of the ground. This has given it it huge sway over the global rare earth industry. But it also means that it needs vast quantities of ore, which is currently mostly mined in China, Australia, the US, and Myanmar. ... “China depends so much on imports of rare earth raw material from abroad, [and] they are painfully aware that this dependency could be used against them,” said [Thomas] Krümmer [an analyst of the rare earth market]." qz.com/china-rare-earths-raw-materials-shortage-1850232896
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