Jun 3, 2019

Another twist in the U.S.-China battle over rare earths

Fresh off President Xi Jinping's signal China could restrict the sale of rare earth minerals, a major component in a host of important technological and defense devices, to the U.S., a team of Chinese scientists announced they had developed a new process that reduces the time needed to extract rare earths from ore.

Why it matters: If the process is indeed viable, it would deepen the world's dependence on China for the valuable minerals and elements, locking in China's dominance in the field, at least in the short term.

  • They say the new discovery will move extraction from a process that takes days to a matter of minutes, and that it also could reduce environmental costs.
  • "This could start a technological evolution in the rare earths industry," said Sun Xiaoqi, lead scientist on the project, according to the South China Morning Post.
  • China accounts for 80% of the global supply of rare earths, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Of note: Last week I mentioned that Lynas Corp., one of the most important producers of rare earths outside of China, was eyeing a move to U.S. soil after a fight with the Malaysian government. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday the company's refinery would be allowed to continue operations.

Go deeper: Why rare earth minerals matter in the U.S.-China trade war

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America's future looks a lot like Nevada

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Today's Nevada caucus will foreshadow the future of American politics well beyond 2020.

Why it matters: The U.S. is in the midst of a demographic transformation, and the country's future looks a lot like Nevada's present. Today's results, in addition to shaping the 2020 race, will help tell us where politics is headed in a rapidly changing country.

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and U.S. ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. Meanwhile, Italy reported its first virus-related death on Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,359 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 14 hours ago - Health