Small mine set to become epic battleground over Earth's rarest metals
Pea Ridge Mine may challenge Chinese dominance in rare earth metals trade.
To the southwest of the city of St. Louis, an epic struggle for worldwide dominance is set to begin. The site of the Pea Ridge Mine is about to become ground zero in a titanic struggle between the United States and China over the mining and production of what are known as rare earth metals.
Rare earth metals are found in virtually all modern electronics which makes them important for the production of things like computers and televisions and cell phones, and they also have strategic importance because they are used in high-tech weaponry such as missiles.
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Until recently, China had a virtual monopoly on rare earth metals. China happens to be rich in these natural resources and they have developed a constant and reliable stream which feeds their factories, and in turn the world. The late Chinese president Deng Xiaoping once remarked that their monopoly on rare earth metals was similar to the Middle Eastern dominance of world oil markets.
The Pea Ridge mine in St. Louis was once used as an iron mine, but everything changed when traces of rare elements were found in the mine. According to the US geological survey, 98% of the metal remaining in the mine is cerium and lanthanium. The rich deposits of these two elements in this one mine are sufficient to rival Chinese dominance in the world market.
Unfortunately, they are also two of the cheapest, and most abundant rare earth metals. Heavier and more precious rare earth metals are virtually nonexistent at Pea Ridge. The good news is that demand for heavy rare elements is very low.
The development of these resources, and their impact on world markets is just one part of the continual sparring between China and the United States to be the world's dominant economic power.
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