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Rare earth stocks come out winners in China-US trade war

Baotou City: Epicentre of China’s rare earth industry. (Image by Matthew Stinson)

With all the turmoil surrounding the ongoing China-US trade war, companies mining for rare earth elements have come out as “unexpected” winners thanks to market-wide speculation that China may choke off supply of certain critical minerals to the US. Currently the US relies on China for about 80% of its rare earth metals, many of which are essential in applications such as wind turbines, EVs, smartphones and military equipment.

The threat of “weaponizing” rare earths by China means potential sellers of these minerals to the US stand to gain from a tightened international supply and higher prices. The US may not have a choice but to keep importing. At the moment there’s only one rare earths miner in the country, MP Materials, which operates the Mountain Pass mine in California. Even so, its ores are exported to China and processed into cerium, neodymium, lanthanum and europium there.

Shares of Chinese rare earth miners already saw significant gains earlier today, including JL Mag Rare-Earth (up 10%), whose processing plant President Xi Jinping visited last week.

Meanwhile, in Canada and Australia: Lynas Corp (ASX: LYC), based in Western Australia and the only other major producer outside China, was up 16% on Wednesday morning. Toronto-based Avalon Advanced Materials Inc (TSX: AVL), which is exploring a feasibility-stage rare earth project in Northwest Territories, surged by 33%. Another Canadian rare earth miner, Niocorp Developments Ltd (TSX: NB), moved up 5%. Other Canadian-based junior miners including Geomega Resources Inc (TSX-V: GMA), Ucore Rare Metals Inc (TSX-V: UCU) and Commerce Resources Corp (TSX-V: CCE) also advanced, up 12.5%, 48% and 21% respectively.