A 21st century scramble : South Africa, China and the Rare Earth Metals Industry

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dc.contributor.author Jepson, Nicholas
dc.contributor.editor Grimm, Sven
dc.contributor.editor McDonald, Matthew
dc.date.accessioned 2012-06-01T09:50:48Z
dc.date.available 2012-06-01T09:50:48Z
dc.date.issued 2012-03
dc.identifier.citation Jepson, N. 2012. A 21st century scramble: South Africa, China and the Rare Earth Metals Industry. Discussion Paper. Centre for Chinese Studies: Stellenbosch University. en_ZA
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/21176
dc.description CCS discussion papers should contribute to the academic debate on China’s global rise and the consequences thereof for African development. We do therefore explicitly invite scholars from Africa, China, or elsewhere, to use this format for advanced papers that are ready for an initial publication, not least to obtain input from other colleagues in the field. Discussion papers should thus be seen as work in progress, exposed to (and ideally stimulating) policy-relevant discussion based on academic standards. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author. en_ZA
dc.description The original publication is available at http://www.sun.ac.za/ccs
dc.description Bibliography
dc.description.abstract The paper analyses the peculiar structure of the rare earth elements (REE) industry, a sector dominated by China, and the global implications of current upheavals within the sector, especially as they concern South Africa’s (re)emerging rare earths production. REEs are a hitherto obscure group of metals that have now assumed global significance. They are especially critical to modern high-strength magnets and constitute vital inputs for a growing range of mass consumer, ‘green’ technology and military applications. It is important to understand that REEs altogether comprise 17 different metals which, although found together in various combinations, differ in relative abundance and breadth of possible applications. There are therefore large variations in prices and criticality of supply between the different elements. The Chinese rare earths industry has secured a 97% share of upstream production by means of aggressive pricing, backed by state support and technology transfer. Beijing is now attempting to consolidate the industry, crack down on illegal mining and restrict and enforce export and production quotas. Official explanations stress renewed concern for environmental issues and the protection of scarce resources from over-exploitation. Also significant, however, is a policy of deliberately using export restrictions to leverage non-Chinese prices, in order to induce foreign downstream producers to relocate production to China. This process is beginning; although there are also two other forms of international response. First, there is demand destruction either through increased efficiency in REE usage, substitution or recycling of rare earths. Secondly – and most widely known – are attempts to restart REE supply chains outside China. South Africa is in the forefront of these efforts through two, globally significant, extractive projects. The refurbished Steenkampskraal thorium and REE mine may be the first non-Chinese new producer to come online, in 2012–2013. The Zandkopsdrift development in Northern Cape is less advanced, but is among the largest prospective new REE mines. Both are joint ventures between Western junior mining companies and East Asian parastatals, respectively from China and Korea. Significant environmental risks seem inherent in the extraction and separation of REEs, especially from thorium waste, although apparently this has not reached the public consciousness in the areas immediately around the South African mines. If these dangers can be avoided or minimised, the new rare earths mines could make a small but significant positive developmental impact at local as well as national level. en_ZA
dc.format.extent 43 p. : ill.
dc.language.iso en_ZA en_ZA
dc.publisher Stellenbosch University. Centre for Chinese Studies en_ZA
dc.subject Mining en_ZA
dc.subject Rare earth metals -- South Africa en_ZA
dc.subject Rare earth metals -- China en_ZA
dc.subject Rare earth metals -- Metallurgy en_ZA
dc.subject Mineral resources -- South Africa -- Conservation en_ZA
dc.subject Centre for Chinese Studies
dc.subject Industrial policy
dc.subject Mineral resources -- China -- Conservation
dc.subject Natural resources -- Exploitation
dc.title A 21st century scramble : South Africa, China and the Rare Earth Metals Industry en_ZA
dc.type Article en_ZA
dc.description.version PDF Version en_ZA
dc.rights.holder Stellenbosch University. Centre for Chinese Studies en_ZA
dc.subject.corp Zandkopsdrift -- South Africa -- Northern Cape
dc.subject.corp Steenkampskraal mine -- South Africa
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