China currently produces nearly 60% of the world's rare earths, and its market power has posed supply concerns, a report said
Joe Biden, Narendra Modi, Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga were expected to confirm their intentions to reduce their dependence on China-produced rare earths, it said
New Delhi: The US, Australia, Japan, and India are on the verge of joining hands to build a rare-earth procurement chain to take on the dominance of China in supplying the elements to makers of everything from smartphones to high-performance motors to EV batteries, a news report said Thursday.
China currently produces nearly 60% of the world's rare earths, and its market power has posed supply concerns, the Japanese Nikkei Asia said.
“ The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue nations intend to counter this by cooperating in funding new production technologies and development projects. They also intend to lead the way in drafting international rules," the report said.
The report comes on the eve of the first Quad leaders’ summit on Friday.
US president Joe Biden, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and Japnese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga were expected to confirm their intentions to reduce their dependence on China-produced rare earths on Friday, the report said.
As a first step, the Quad nations will develop refining technologies. Rare-earth veins often contain radioactive materials, and a large amount of radioactive waste is produced in the refining process that China dominates, the report said.
In addition, the Quad countries were expected to agree on cooperating in supplying covid-19 vaccines to developing countries, the report said.
Big tech companies rely on China-produced rare earths like neodymium, essential for electric vehicles, and lithium, used in batteries. These metals are also essential for wind turbines and other "decarbonization" infrastructure.
China, the world’s number two economy has a near-monopoly on the separation and purification of rare earths, processes that create concerns regarding environment and soil damage.
According to the US Geological Survey, China in 2020 accounted for 58% of the globe's rare-earth production, down from around 90% some four years ago as the U.S. and Australia have gradually boosted their own production, the report said.
China has positioned rare earths as strategic resources and has used its near-monopoly as a diplomatic bargaining chip. In 2010, China stopped supplies of its rare earth metals to Japan after Tokyo nationalized the Senkaku Islands – in what was seen as a rare instance of a country weaponising its trade to pressure another country.
When China halted rare earth shipments, prices of some of the metals skyrocketed nearly ninefold, the report said.
The Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) is a dialogue platform of like-minded countries (India, USA, Australia and Japan) that share the common attributes of democracy, pluralism and market-based economy with growing convergences in strategic and security perceptions, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. While there is no institutionalised secretariat, discussions are focused on emerging global challenges and geopolitical issues.
The importance of the Quad has run in tandem with the emergence of the Indo-Pacific as a key strategic region. The Quad countries share similarity of assessments about geopolitical dynamics in the region. In 2017, the Quad dialogue resumed at the official level after a ga of a decade. Senior officials of the four countries participated in the Quad Senior Official Meetings, held twice a year. Till date seven senior officials’ meetings have been held under Quad, with the most recent one taking place virtually in December 2020.
The Quad was upgraded to the foreign minister level in 2019 and the foreign ministers have met three times since then.
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