Rare Earth Processing Technology

Facts for Prelims

Rare Earth Processing Technology

News: China, the leading global processor of rare earths, has imposed a ban on the export of technology essential for extracting and separating these strategic metals.

What is Rare Earth Processing Technology?
• Rare earth processing technology involves the extraction and separation of rare earth elements from their ores. These elements are a group of 17 metals that are used in various modern technologies, including electric vehicles, wind turbines, and electronics.
• The processing of rare earth ores can pose potential hazards to human health and the environment due to challenges in managing thorium (Th) and uranium (U) in waste products.

Why has China banned on export of such technology?
• The ban is a step towards protecting China’s dominance in several strategic metals. While Western countries are starting to ramp up their own rare earth processing operations, the ban is expected to have the biggest impact on so-called “heavy rare earths”, where China has a virtual monopoly on refining.
• The move comes as Europe and the United States scramble to wean themselves off rare earths from China, which accounts for nearly 90% of global refined output.
• The ban covers not only technology related to extraction and separation but also extends to the export of production technology for rare earth metals, alloy materials, and specific rare earth magnets.

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