According to recent reports surfacing on media outlets, the Indian Pacific Quad is attempting to curb China’s monopoly on the rare earth elements. The Indian-Pacific Quad includes US, India, Australia and Japan. These countries are collaborating together to break the Chinese monopoly on rare earth elements.
Why is the quad interested in rare earth elements?
The rare earth elements (REE) comprise of a group of seventeen metallic elements. This includes 15 lanthanide elements present on the periodic table in addition to scandium and yttrium. The rare earth elements are all metals that have many similar properties and are often found together in geologic deposits. Needless to say, these elements are extremely valuable.
Until recently, China has maintained a virtual monopoly on the rare earth elements. Despite the trade war going on between China and United States currently, Beijing has dropped several hints suggesting that Washington is likely to be denied supply of the rare earth elements produced in China.
The US, India, Australia, and Japan alliance
The Quad comprising of US, India, Australia and Japan are attempting to utilize this time to rapidly currate a collective self-reliance. This is beacuse a dependency on China in cruical matters may prove to be a threat in years to come. In order to weaken China’s monopoly on rare earth elements, the quad states are trying to establish Australia as the real mastermind in order to liberate the region’s democracies.
However, the output generated by Australia is much smaller than the mammoth quantities produced in China. Australia is mounting a serious effort to minimize the production gap with China. This situation of vulnerability created by China may change soon, as there are four Australian companies who are working on advanced rare earth projects. The three companies located in Australia and one in Tanzania are focusing on the ferret neodymium-praseodymium: this is a combination of rare-earth metals, which imparts high strength permanent magnets, extensively used in electric vehicle engines.
In June, Australia secured a preliminary agreement for supplying critical minerals to assist in India’s transition to a new energy economy. According to a report published in Businessworld, Australian Resources Minister Keith Pitt said, “Canberra could become India’s top supplier of cobalt and zircon.“India presents growing opportunities for Australia’s critical minerals, especially when the nation-building its manufacturing sector, defence and space capabilities.”
Australia has also been working on securing a deal with the United States for rare earth elements. United States is perhaps the India-Pacific Quad’s most powerful partner. The deal has laid the following ground rules: Australian rare earth miner Lynas would process the mined minerals in a facility in Texas, in partnership with the Pentagon. Besides the Australian company, Syrah has earmarked a production line in the US state of Louisiana to turn graphite into super-conductor graphene, for use in electric cars.