Los Angeles 10/20/2010 6:17:11 PM
News / Politics

US Starts Inquiry Over Chinese Rare Earth Shipments

Trade officials in the US have said that they are investigating a report in the New York Times that China is blocking trade and shipments of its rare earth elements to foreign countries.

The inquiry is especially concerning for green technology, as China produced 97 percent of the world’s rare earth elements, which are crucial in most green technologies.

The report in the Times, which cited anonymous industry sources in China said that Chinese officials had increased restrictions on the export of rare earths. China’s commerce ministry has dismissed the report as bunk, as well as denying a second report in the China Daily that quotas will be cut by 30 percent to reduce the risk of overmining.

"China will continue to supply rare earths to the world, and at the same time, to protect usable resources and sustainable development, China will also continue to impose restrictive measures on exploration, production and import and export of rare earths,” a report from the ministry stated.

There are 17 recognized rare earths, which are used in everything from TVs to computers, cars and pharmaceuticals. Many analysts say that if the supply of these minerals were to stop, much of the world’s economy would grind to a halt.

The report that China is blocking exports to Europe and the US come as Japan suspected the same was happening to its imports of the crucial minerals amid the tension over the Chinese fishing vessel found in contested waters near Japan.