London - Britain on Friday emphasised the importance of securing rare earth mineral supply chains and diversifying away from dominant players such as China as it launched a refining facility in northern England and a new critical minerals strategy. Rare earths, such as neodymium, praseodymium, terbium and dysprosium, are used to make magnets to fire up engines in electric vehicles, and operate windows, offshore wind turbines and other high-tech devices.
China currently provides 98% of the world's supply. Efforts by Europe and the United States to reduce their reliance on China and build a secure and independent supply chain for these key minerals have accelerated after pandemic shutdowns. Britain said the Pensana facility would be the second-largest magnet materials refinery outside of China, and its operations would begin at the end of 2023: "With rising geopolitical threats, Britain needs to move quickly to secure the rare earth minerals necessary to supply our future industries,- business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said in a statement, citing also the disruption of Russia's invasion of Ukraine to supply chains more broadly. - Most of these minerals are sourced from just a handful of countries, leaving Britain vulnerable to market shocks. We need to develop and strengthen our own supply chains to protect our national security into the future."
The 145 million pound ($173 million) site in Saltend, North Yorkshire, is backed by the government's Automotive Transformation Fund and is set to create 126 jobs. Other critical minerals include graphite, lithium and silicon, commodities in which China is also the dominant supplier. In a new strategy, Britain said it would work to carry out more research and development and build the skills base among the local workforce, as well as bolster domestic production and diversify supply chains, working with "like-minded allies. We are already putting the strategy's aims into action to diversify our supply chains away from dominant market players," Kwarteng said.