China Halts Rare Mineral Exports To US And Europe, Prices Set To Surge

The latest escalation in the binary version of modern warfare (i.e., that fought with a Bloomberg instead a stealth fighter), comes from China, which the NYT reports has just halted shipment of rare minerals to the US: "China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted shipments of some of those same materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said on Tuesday." As we disclosed a few weeks ago, prepare for an explosion in various rare metal prices...

More from the NYT:

The Chinese action, involving rare earth minerals that are crucial to manufacturing many advanced products, seems certain to further ratchet up already rising trade and currency tensions with the West. Until recently, China typically sought quick and quiet accommodations on trade issues. But the interruption in rare earth supplies is the latest sign from Beijing that Chinese officials are willing to use their growing economic muscle.

“The embargo is expanding” beyond Japan, said one of the three rare earth industry officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity for fear of business retaliation by Chinese authorities. They said Chinese customs officials imposed the broader shipment restrictions Monday morning, hours after a top Chinese official had summoned international news media Sunday night to denounceUnited States trade actions.

China mines 95 percent of the world’s rare earth elements, which have broad commercial and military applications, and are vital to the manufacture of diverse products including large wind turbines and guided missiles. Any curtailment of Chinese supplies of rare earths is likely to be greeted with alarm in Western capitals, particularly because Western companies are believed to keep much smaller stockpiles of rare earths than Japanese companies do.

Dudley Kingsnorth, a rare earth market analyst at the Industrial Minerals  Company of Australia in Perth, said that if China adopted a further reduction in export quotas of 30 percent for next year, manufacturers elsewhere could face difficulties.

“That will create some problems,” he said. “It’ll force some people to look very carefully at the use of rare earths, and we might be reverting to some older technologies until alternative sources of rare earths are developed.”

Actually, no. All it means is that a little of all the record liquidity sloshing around is about to make its way to the latest bubble. And for those wondering just what the rare mineral bubble will look like, here is a reminder:

And the narrative we presented in early October:

Ever heard of the oxides of Lanthanum, Cerium, Neodymium, Praseodymium and/or Samarium? With price surges between 250% and 600% in one quarter, you may wish you have. The recent pissing contest between Japan and China, which culminated with a temporary export ban in rare earth metals such as those named above, translated in ridiculous price jumps in some compounds most have never even heard of, let alone traded, yet which would have made not only the year, but the decade for hedge funds invested in them. And with China producing more than 90% of the world's supply of rare earth minerals, coupled with increasing probability of escalating global (and regional) trade wars, it is distinctly possible that the gains recorded recently in gold will be dwarfed by the imminent Samarium Oxide bubble, which 3 months ago was trading at $4/kg and is now over $30.

Again, we were correct. The next move will be higher. Much higher.