Meanwhile, amid rising costs and environmental concerns elsewhere, output of rare earths outside China slumped from 42,000 metric tons in 1995, or nearly 60% of global production, to virtually nothing.
Just one rare-earth metal lanthanum oxide, which is used for applications such as polishing glass, shot up to more than $110 per kilogram in the second half of 2011 from an average of $4.88 in 2009, up nearly 2100%.
Molycorp Inc. of the U.S. continues to increase production at a California mine that was once the world’s largest, which it estimates has more than 20 million tons of ore.
The importance of rare earths to China is reflected in a saying attributed to the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1992: “There is oil in the Middle East, there is rare earth in China.” In an effort to take a greater role in the market, it boosted annual output more than fourfold between 1995 and 2010 to 130,000 metric tons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
China now has a monopoly on its production.
Produced by Hank Green
Chief Editor: Blake de Pastino
Cinematography: Nick Jenkins
Video Editor: Matt Ferguson
Graphics: Amber Bushnell
Written by Jesslyn Shields
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[Picture Credit: telegraph.co.uk]