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China has trapped the US Military industry

Beijing has a “rare earth” monopoly, essential elements for missiles, submarines and invisible planes. It is the Chinese trap. And to avoid it, the Americans are ready to go back to the moon. That trap is called “rare earth”. In truth, rather than lands, we are talking about metals and oxidised. They are 17 in all and have names such as scandium, yttrium, lanthanum, holmium.
In truth they represent the bridge between our epoch and that of Star Wars. It is no coincidence that NASA is willing to finance an ambitious program for the opening and management of the first lunar mines, in order to get our hands on those precious but unavailable 17 elements.

A program ready to start as early as 2024 when American astronauts will return to the satellite to start exploiting its deposits. But already a month ago the White House distributed to the Western allies the first draft of the so-called Artemis agreements, the agreement, from which China and Russia are excluded, which will regulate “the public or private recovery of resources in the external space”.

In order to understand why Trump is in such a hurry to return to the Moon by cutting off Moscow and Beijing, we must start from rare earth. Those 17 elements represent the secret weapon with which Beijing can annul the technological superiority of the American arsenals making it impossible to control the Tomahawk missiles, canceling the invisibility of the F35 or putting the Virgin class nuclear submarines out of service.

The reason is simple. Each F35 requires the use of 460 kg of rare earth. And it takes ten times as many to make a Virgin-class submarine work. The same goes for all the most sophisticated products of the US war industry from Tomahawk to hypersonic missiles, from smart bombs to invisible planes.

Too bad that the production and processing of those 17 components with strange names is 95% in the hands of China. A move capable of putting a company like Apple on the sidelines, given that iPhone technology also depends on rare earths. In order to understand why rare earths have become the most powerful strategic weapon in the hands of Beijing, we must start from the Swedish village of Ytterby.

There, in 1787, the military chemist Carl Axel Arrhenius discovered an unknown silvery and shiny metal. From that metal the geologist Johan Gadolin extracts yttrial oxide two years later. Thus began the search for 17 elements that cannot be found in their natural state, but obtainable with expensive extraction techniques from lateric clays or mineral deposits with equally strange names such as bastnasite, monazite and loparite. But many of the rare earths are radioactive and this makes them dangerous for man and the environment, multiplying the extraction costs.

These difficulties play in favor of a China where the laws on the protection of health and the environment are, until ten years ago, absolutely unknown.

“The Middle East has oil, but there are rare earths in China,” announces Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1992 during a speech before the political office of the Communist Party. Behind that prophecy is the awareness of controlling 36% of the world’s rare earth deposits and of being able to offer particularly advantageous conditions to its customers.

In truth Xiaoping does not discover anything new. Already in the early 1980s, the West, concerned about the social and environmental costs associated with the extraction of rare earths, closed excavations and mines to outsource their production to a China capable of guaranteeing competitive costs. And so from 2000 to 2009 Beijing increased production by 77% reaching 129 thousand tons on the market while the rest of the world stopped at 3 thousand. The monopoly is not limited to extraction. By guaranteeing very low processing costs, China induces not only Apple, but also the large US groups linked to military components to move their factories to their territory. The admission of total American impotence emerges from a 2018 report with which the Pentagon accuses

China of having imposed an authentic monopoly by becoming the sole supplier of the key components for the construction of ammunition and missiles. The report, intended for the White House, underlines how the production of neodymes, essential for the construction of super magnets, or gizmo, essential for the control of missiles, are produced exclusively in China and are now unavailable on the US market. From that dead end America is unable to get out. All the tax breaks and incentives offered to US companies to induce them to invest again in the production of rare earths clash essentially with the laws of the market. Rare earths in theory would not be difficult to find.

It would be enough to extract them from the deposits in Vietnam, Brazil, India, Australia, Canada and Greenland, process them and transform them into semi-components. But restarting the production machine from scratch has, the Pentagon warns, a “prohibitive” cost. So the only way out for the Trump administration is to aim for the lunar mines by opening the doors to a future that will guarantee not only rare earth supplies, but also a monopoly of all resources coming from the Moon, and from the other frontiers of extra-terrestrial exploration. Mars and asteroids included.

By Domenico Greco

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