The United States and European Union nations must form alliances, reform regulations, streamline permitting, recycle materials, sift existing mines for discarded byproducts, and curry “social acceptance” for mining if they are to survive a “Cold War” over access to critical minerals that many say China has been waging for decades.
“I think we have been in a cold war for a long time,” said Professor Par Weihed, the pro vice chancellor in ore geology at the Lulea University of Technology in Sweden, during a Feb. 15 seminar presented by the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).
Recalling how China flooded the global market with tungsten in the 1980s, causing its price to tumble so low it forced three European mines to close, Weihed said China is now in a “market-cornering” position for many critical minerals, including since 2008 in rare earth minerals.
“This is what China has been doing for a long time,” he said. “What we are talking about [with rare earth minerals] already happened 15, 20 years ago.”