Rare earth minerals shortage feared by US and EU

Mini magnets made from chemically processed rare earths are shown in Beijing The 17 different rare earths are found in everything from magnets to hybrid cars and computer monitors

Related Stories

The US and the EU have warned that a shortage of rare earth metals from China could harm their economies.

Officials and industrialists in Washington and Berlin said a lack of the minerals, 90% of which come from China, would have severe repercussions.

The metals are essential for making many hi-tech products and some are used by the US weapons industry.

China says it is cutting production to protect the environment and preserve its own supply.

It has denied it is using its near-monopoly improperly and says there will not be drastic cuts in exports.

Supply 'crunch'

Rare earth metals are scarce minerals that have particular properties, such as being magnetic or shining in low light.

This makes them particularly useful in some new technologies, such as solar panels or electric cars or light-weight batteries.

German companies have lobbied the government to say that they are now finding it hard to get hold of these essential minerals, because China produces virtually all of them.

German economy minister Rainer Bruederle said his country was being severely affected.

The concerns about a monopoly are now being echoed in Washington, where the Department of Energy has said firms are worried about shortages. One talked of a "supply crunch".

In the US, efforts are being made to increase production, but this cannot be done in the near future.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Woman in swimming pool Green stuff

    The element that makes a familiar smell when mixed with urine


  • Plane at Shannon airportShannon's call

    The airport that hosted a roll-call of presidents


  • Record playing on turntableVinyl destination

    The eight tribes of people who keep buying records


  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at RAAF Amberley airbase near Brisbane on 19 AprilIn pictures

    Fighter jets and screaming crowds for William and Kate


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ITChild's play

    It's never been easier for small businesses to get their message out to the world

Programmes

  • Tuna and avacadoThe Travel Show Watch

    Is Tokyo set to become the world's gourmet capital?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.