Rare Earth Minerals and Australian Independence
Ned K. 19 June 2019
In its intensifying trade war with China, the US is becoming more desperate to the extent that it now openly makes threats to one of its supposed friends.
Some sections of the US ruling class are worried though that Trump's huff and puff against Huawei and the rising Chinese social imperialist power may see US imperialism worse off.
Alan Dupont, the Contributing National Editor for the US Murdoch empire writes, "An equally disturbing development is the possibility that China may restrict or ban exports to the US of rare earths - minerals with exotic names such as dysprosium, terbium and neodymium that are critical components of many hi-tech products, from missiles and radars to ..smart phones". Electric vehicles are also dependent upon rare earth components.
The military applications of rare earths are significant. They include:
• Fin actuators in missile guidance and control systems, controlling the direction of the missile;
• Disk drive motors installed in aircraft, tanks, missile systems, and command and control centres;
• Lasers for enemy mine detection, interrogators, underwater mines, and countermeasures;
• Satellite communications, radar, and sonar on submarines and surface ships; and
• Optical equipment and speakers.
A report on the Defence Connect website states:
Recognising the importance of these factors, combined with China's complete dominance of the global supply chain of REE and the For reference, a US Navy Virginia Class fast attack submarine requires approximately 4.2 tonnes of various REEs (rare earth elements), while the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter requires approximately 417 kilograms of various REEs to support information transfer, energy storage, computational devices and in some cases stealth coatings.
Additionally, REEs form core components, including highly-powered magnets essential for the guidance systems of smart bombs, cruise missiles and the Aegis integrated air and missile defence combat system through to providing hardening elements for ceramic components for contemporary body armour and armour systems on ground vehicles.
The US imports most of its rare earths from China which controls 80% of the rare earths global market and produces over 95% of the global supply. In 1997, Deng Xiaoping boasted that "China would be for rare earth metals what the Middle East was to oil".
If the struggle between the two imperialist powers reaches the point of the US having no rare earth imports, the likelihood of military confrontation between the declining US imperial power and the rising social imperial power of China will intensify.
So, what has this got to do with Australia? Apart from the obvious military domination of Australia by the USA which makes Australia a military target in a war between the two above mentioned imperial powers, Australia is a significant supplier of rare earths to telecommunications giant corporations and military manufacturers.
Rare earth minerals are extracted and exported to the US and elsewhere by an Australian company called Lynas from Mount Weld in WA. Others currently mining and exporting, or on the way to doing so through feasibility studies, include the Nolans Project, owned by Arafura in the NT; the Dubbo Zirconia Project, owned by Alkane Resources, in NSW; Northern Mnerals’ Browns Range Project in the Tanami Desert; and Hastings Technology Metals Ltd projects Yangibana in the Gascoyne Region WA and Brockman near Halls Gap WA. The latter is heavily invested in by Malaysian capital.
Pressure will be exerted in all manner of ways by both US and China on the Morrison Government regarding to where the rare earths from Australia are exported.
The fact that Australia has significant deposits of these rare earth minerals is becoming more important every day. They should be used in the interests of the Australian people as a starting point to develop an Australian hi-tech products industry as part of the people's struggle and desire for Australia to develop an economic base independent of imperialist powers.
Winning an Australian publicly owned hi-tech products industry will be a small but important step in the struggle for independence from imperialist wars.