February 13, 2024
The United States faces deep, ongoing vulnerabilities in its mine...
The scene: It’s 2025 and the United States has entered a cold war with The People’s Republic of China. In Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the latest in the immensely popular Call of Duty video game series, terrorists have taken down the Chinese stock exchange, leading to a ban on rare earth mineral exports from China—and global conflict. It may seem far-fetched, but is there an element of truth to this fiction?
Let’s look at the facts: Today, China produces more than 95 percent of the global supply of rare earths and the United States is 79 percent import-dependent on China for these valuable minerals, critical components of countless products used by Americans every day. China has the ability to significantly influence market dynamics and has leveraged the power of its near monopoly by imposing numerous mineral export restrictions that have forced major U.S. companies to move their manufacturing overseas. At present, there is little clarity or predictability about China’s rare earth production and export policies, which sends uncertain supply signals to the market and can leave investors and downstream industries in a state of confusion.
It wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s and 1980s, global production of rare earths was dominated by the output from the Mountain Pass mine in California. But over time, an increasingly time-consuming, uncertain and sometimes adversarial regulatory culture has made American minerals more and more difficult to access, ultimately stifling domestic job creation, halting economic growth and putting our national security at risk.
While the scenario laid out in Call of Duty: Black Ops II is purely fiction, it seems that the creators were inspired by real-world events with anything but certain outcomes.
Learn more about the everyday products driving global demand for minerals here.
This post has been updated.