The “rare earth elements” are a group of 17 naturally occurring metallic elements used in small amounts in everything from high-powered magnets to batteries and electronic circuits. They have specific chemical and physical properties that make them useful in improving the performance of computer hard drives and catalytic converters, mobile phones, high-tech televisions, sunglasses and lasers.
As technology advances, so the demand for the metals rises; in the past decade, their use has doubled. There are several kilograms of such elements in typical hybrid gasoline-electric cars made by Toyota and Honda, a market that will expand in coming years.
Despite their name, rare earth elements are not actually all that rare. In a report on the elements published this year, the British Geological Survey put their natural abundance on the same level as copper or lead.
China has a near-monopoly on mining the elements. According to the geological survey China has 37 percent of the world’s estimated reserves, about 36 million tonnes, but controls more than 97 percent of production. The former Soviet bloc has about 19 million tonnes and the US 13 million tonnes, with other large deposits held by Australia, India, Brazil and Malaysia.
The Royal Society for Chemistry is raising awareness of falling mineral resources, making conservation of rare earth and other elements a priority for next year. The US House of Representatives is also worried about security of supply and is considering legislation to try to end the US’ dependence on Chinese imports. The Mountain Pass mine in California, shut down in 2002 because of environmental and cost issues, is now to be reopened. Other sources, untapped as yet, include Greenland. Estimates suggest the land mass could meet 25 percent of global demand.
If social media interaction is any yardstick, India remained one of the top countries for Taiwan last year. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has on several occasions expressed enthusiasm to strengthen cooperation with India, one of the 18 target nations in her administration’s New Southbound Policy. The past year was instrumental in fostering Taiwan-India ties and will be remembered for accelerated momentum in bilateral relations. However, most of it has been confined to civil society circles. Even though Taiwan launched its southbound policy in 2016, the potential of Taiwan-India engagement remains underutilized. It is crucial to identify what is obstructing greater momentum
In terms of the economic outlook for the semiconductor industry, Taiwan has outperformed the rest of the world for three consecutive years. This is quite rare. In addition, Taiwan has been playing an important role in the US-China technology dispute, and both want Taiwan on their side, reflecting the remaking of the nation’s semiconductor industry. Under the leadership of — above all — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the industry as a whole has shifted from a focus on capacity to a focus on quality, as companies now have to be able to provide integration of hardware and software, as well as
US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy on China and the Indo-Pacific region will have huge repercussions for Taiwan. The US Department of State in the final weeks of former US president Donald Trump’s term took several actions clearly aimed to push Biden’s foreign policy to build on Trump’s achievements. Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s announcement on the final day of the Trump administration that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was committing “genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang was welcome, but comes far too late. The recent dropping of “self-imposed” restrictions on meetings between Taiwanese and US officials was
In memory of Diane Baker: one of the last working dance journalists, a true dance aficionado and dear friend. On Friday, through a mutual friend, I received the shocking news that dance critic Diane Baker had passed away suddenly at her apartment in Tianmu, Taipei. The news quickly spread, and messages of concern quickly swarmed in from the dance community in Taiwan and abroad. Her sister Sharon in the US later confirmed that Diane died of a heart attack on Wednesday last week. She was 65. Diane was a dear friend to Taiwan’s dance community. Her frequent appearance at dance performances in