Mynamar’s rare earth: China’s monopoly

May 28th, 2012 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Yangon, May 28 (IANS) China enjoys a monopoly on rare earth that is needed as much in your smart phone as in hybrid cars. The world is now looking at Myanmar to have an alternate source of this precious commodity.

Myanmar is known to have rare earth like Xenotine, Monazite, Columbite and Tantalite, says

The reforms brought about by President Thein Sein has led the tech-savvy and wide-eyed industrial giants to look at Myanmar’s deposits.

Despite their name, rare earths are relatively common within the earth’s crust. But because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.

China has a stranglehold over rare earths, controlling over 95 percent of the worldwide trade.

It produces the majority of two important rare earths, Dysprosium (99 percent) and Neodymium (95 percent).

Other countries do have rare earth but China’s low-cost labour and not too tight environmental restrictions have given it a big advantage.

Knowing well the politics of business, South Korea struck a rare earth deal with Myanmar in 2010.

Rare earths are vital for technology products including smart phones and hybrid cars. It is also used in computer discs and guided missiles as well as in TV screen and microphones.

According to the US Geological Survey, approximately 13 million metric tonnes of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the US.

The rare earth is a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications.

It is an important ingredient in high-strength magnets, metal alloys for batteries and light-weight structures.

These are essential components for many current and emerging alternative energy technologies, such as electric vehicles, photo-voltaic cells, energy-efficient lighting, and wind power.

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