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Beijing cornering strategic minerals.

China is "cornering the market for an obscure group of minerals that are vital to high-technology industry," reported the January 22 International Herald Tribune. The Asian behemoth now supplies approximately 95 percent of the world's consumption of "rare earths," such as cerium, neodymium, lathanum, yttrium, and dysprosium. Although these substances have names that look like something Dr. Seuss coughed up after an all-night gin jag, they constitute "a class of minerals with properties that make them essential for applications including miniaturized electronics, computer disk drives, display screens, missile guidance, pollution control catalysts and advanced materials."

Not surprisingly, as China's rare-earth industry grows, "many of the processors and end users of these minerals are moving their advanced manufacturing and research and development facilities to China." A significant example of this trend is found in the sale and relocation of Magnequench, a company formerly based in Valparaiso, Indiana, that manufactured roughly 80 percent of the rare-earth magnets used in building smart bombs. The Tribune observes that "controlling the supply of these minerals gives China a strategic advantage as it seeks to build powerful high-technology industries and modernize its armed forces."
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Title Annotation:INSIDE REPORT
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Feb 20, 2006
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