Rare-earth metals: The new China syndrome

From Canadian Business magazine, October 12, 2009

Is the Middle Kingdom's hoarding of rare-earth metals a threat or an opportunity?

By Matthew McClearn

Few Canadians will admit to hankering for yttrium, terbium or dysprosium; fewer still could tell the differences between them. But among manufacturers that rely on these and other rare-earth metals to build everything from mobile phones to flat-screen televisions, they are vital. And so, when a draft report recently made public by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) indicated that the Chinese government was considering a ban on their export, a furor ensued. For good reason: when it comes to these exotic metals, China is essentially the world’s lone supplier.

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