Stable procurement of rare earths is boldly challenged by each country because rare earths are resources implying political background.


In particular, the United States, which is burning its opposition to China, is enthusiastic about building self-sufficiency in rare earths. From a penetrating point of view, it is no exaggeration to say that the United States is leading the Chinese encirclement net, perhaps because there is a risk that China will overtake the United States in GDP in 2024 or 2025. ..


The United States, as mentioned elsewhere, is trying to come up with a measure that goes one step further with regard to rare earth magnets securement.


On June 8th, the White House issued a report in accordance with President Biden's February 24th executive order. The report details the results of a 100-day review of supply chain vulnerabilities in four key products, including semiconductors and high-capacity batteries.


Currently, the US government is considering applying Article 232 of the Trade Expansion Act to NdFeB magnets (neodymium magnets), suggesting that the US will reduce  dependence on China's NdFeB from the perspective of national security.


According to the current regulations, when China exports rare earth magnets, rare earths will not be refunded VAT, but permanent magnets will be eligible for a full 13% refund. However, presently China’s, NdFeB and NdFeB permanent magnets account for about 90% of the world, and alternatives are limited.


In short, the US Department of Commerce is likely to impose import tariffs on permanent magnets from China in order to reduce reliance on China and improve supply chain security. This strategy could encourage China to revisit its current trade policy or develop its permanent magnet production capacity in North America.


→ (Related article) Rare Earth Special Edition ②Best rare earth relations between Japan, the United States and China and Japan's place


The United States aims to procure medium-heavy rare earths in collaboration with Lynas, Australia. Lynas, Australia is currently separating and refining rare earth ore from Mt Weld, Australia at LAMP, Malaysia. There is a tailing where medium-heavy rare earths are left without the radioactive thorium, which the United States plans to use at the Blue Line in Texas. The Biden administration has indicated that it will invest more than JPY2 billion in the Blue Line. Monazite mined in Australia's Mt Weld is also in the process of amending the law in Australia so that rare earth concentrates without thorium can be exported to the United States.


India also has rare earth elements that have pulled out thorium. According to industry sources, India stores a significant amount of thorium. This will be used for thorium power generation.


Around rare earths, each country is always competing with each other, and it is a resource to be stockpiled. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Belgium, Germany and France are developing marine resource projects in the Pacific region to acquire rare earth resources.


Given that China controls more than 70% of the world's rare earth production, according to South Korean media reports, one research institute, like the United States and the European Union, said South Korea would have its own rare earth supply chain as soon as possible. Suggested that it is necessary to establish. It says it will reduce its dependence on China.


Kim Kyung-hoon, a researcher at the Korea International Trade Association, said, "In order to secure environmental protection and global leadership in the high-tech industry, we must secure a stable supply of rare earths." The United States emphasized the need for cooperation between allies, so establishing a supply chain for the four core projects requires diversifying rare earth suppliers and establishing a domestic supply chain. (Reference URL Korea Depends Too Much on China for Rare Earths Jung Suk-yee)


Korea has other rare earth projects in addition to the Pacific project. For example, previously, Chungcheongbuk-do and Cheongju City Government signed a contract with ASM in Australia and its Korean headquarters KSMT. The total amount of rare earth production investment talks is KW70 billion (equivalent to JPY6.8 billion).


Through discussions, Chungcheongbuk-do and Cheongju City Government will provide administrative and financial support. In cooperation with KSMT and its rare earth production subsidiary KSM, a rare earth processing plant was constructed in Ochang, Cheongju City, and the scale of investment was expanded. This factory uses rare earths from Australia as raw materials, and the Ochang factory works for transportation and processing. It is expected that 6000 tons of rare earths can be processed in one year. “The investment in KSMT is of great significance because supply and demand are unstable due to the Sino-US trade dispute,” said Lee Si-jong, governor of North Chungcheongbuk-do.




And in Japan, in the case of Japan, the fact that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) does not have a competent department for rare earths and rare metals is a very disturbing point. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry merged the Non-Ferrous Metals Division and the Steel Division several years ago and integrated them into the Metals Division. Historically, the Steel Division is stronger. The Mineral Resources Division of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy may correspond, but the person in charge changes in two years, and the budget is not so allocated, so Japan's resource security is still uncertain.


At the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, of course, rare earths are included in the important mineral resources and stockpiling targets, but at present, it is not disclosed how many days are stockpiled. However, Japan's stable procurement strategy is not as specific as that of the United States, Australia, and South Korea.