Dear Shri Narendra Modi ji:
You probably already know the comprehensive threat posed to India by communist China’s aggressive rise as an imperial power. I attempt to bring to your notice a relatively obscure issue, the issue of China’s almost complete monopoly of rare earth minerals. For this article, I am deeply indebted to Shri Jayadeva Ranade and I quote extensively from his book ‘China unveiled: Insights into Chinese strategic thinking’.
Chinese communist leadership had determined to ensure a captive, uninterrupted source of supply of rare earth metals. China declared rare earths a secret national top priority in the mid-1980s and in 1997, Deng Xiaoping observed that ‘China would be for rare earth metals what the Middle East is to oil’. This was adopted as the guiding principle. By 2012, China has acquired virtually monopolistic control over the supply of rare earth metals to the world’s market. Though about 42 % of rare earth resources are elsewhere in the world, China is virtually the only country with a significant refinery capacity.
These rare earth metals include Tertium, Dysprosium, Yttrium, Thulium, Intetium, Noedymicum, Europium, Eerium and Lanthanum. These rare earth metals and especially the group of 17 ‘Lanthanide’ elements, are critical for the hi-technology and ‘green’ industry. The metals are irreplaceable and are used in hundreds of technologies ranging from mobile phones, iPods and BlackBerrys to low-light energy bulbs, lasers and aviation. They are integral to the manufacture of wind turbines, electric motors of hybrid cars, superconductors, microscopes and missile guidance systems. Numerous US scientific organizations including the National Minerals Advisory Board and National Academy of Science have determined rare earths as crucial to US national security. Neodymium iron boron magnets (neo magnets), for example, are the world’s strongest permanent magnets and are used in various hi-tech devices from guidance systems of smart bombs to computer hard drives. Other rare earth metals like Lanthanum, Samarium and Praseodymium are critical to hybrid-electric battery production and nuclear submarine technology. Anti-missile systems, jet engines and satellite communications systems are some of the other technologies that use rare earth metals.
Causing serious concern to Japan and other countries is the recent proposal of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology calling for a total ban on rare earth exports like Tertium, Dysprosium, Yttrium, Thulium and Lutetium. Exports of other rare earth metals like Neodymium, Europium, Eerium and Lanthanum will be restricted to 35,000 metrics tonnes a year. This is far below global needs with Japan’s requirements alone exceeding 38,000 metric tonnes a year. Japan, which was victim in 2010 of China’s policy of using economic levers to achieve strategic or foreign policy objectives, has accused China of treating rare earth metal exports as ’21st century economic weapon’. It is now looking for supplies from Vietnam and Malaysia. US senators have also expressed concern at the potential scarcity of rare earth metals.
India’s future is closely linked with Information and Communication technologies (ICT) and ‘Green’ technologies. India must stop China from using monopoly on rare earth minerals as a strategic weapon. We request your government pay urgent attention to this grave risk.
Vande Mataram! Jai Hind!
Thanks and regards,
an ordinary Indian.