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    Ferrofluid on a reflective glass plate under the influence of a strong magnetic field.

    Trump Orders Pentagon to Boost Production of Rare-Earth Magnets Amid Fear of Chinese Export Cuts

    CC BY-SA 3.0 / Gregory F. Maxwell / Ferrofluid on a reflective glass plate under the influence of a strong magnetic field
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    China has long been a global leader in the production of both rare-earth elements and magnets made from them. However, the procurement of magnets used, among other things, in sophisticated military equipment by the US has been put at risk due to the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing.

    US President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to find ways to increase the domestic production of rare-earth magnets under the 1950's Defence Production Act and notified the heads of the Congressional committees on Financial Services and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that are overseeing its enactment.

    In his letter to the committees, Trump argued that the country is currently unable to "provide the production capability" needed to make rare-earth magnets, which are "essential to the national defence", in sufficient quantities. The Pentagon has already tasked US miners with finding ways to raise production of the rare-earth elements needed for these magnets to be manufactured.

    Trump put strong emphasis on the samarium-cobalt alloy, which is used in the creation of strong permanent magnets that, unlike other rare-earth magnets, is not susceptible to corrosion and can be used in harsh and high temperature conditions. Such magnets are actively used in sophisticated military equipment, as well as in consumer electronics and in the medical industry.

    The US was previously a major producer of rare-earth elements, but has lost its leading position to China. The latter now supplies around 80% of US demand for rare-earth elements, but their shipments have come into question after Washington embarked on a trade war with Beijing in 2018. While China has never openly threatened to ban rare-earth exports to the US, analysts and the media, including Chinese outlets, have suggested that such a move could come in response to the White House's crackdown on Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

    A Huawei signage is pictured at their store at Vina del Mar, Chile  July 14, 2019
    © REUTERS / RODRIGO GARRIDO
    A Huawei signage is pictured at their store at Vina del Mar, Chile July 14, 2019

    Washington has banned American companies from supplying Huawei with US-made technologies, which initially included chips and the Android OS, but Trump later eased the restrictions, limiting them only to technologies that are sensitive to US national security.

     

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    Tags:
    US-China trade war, export, rare-earth metals, China, US
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