Right now, our military is in the hands of China. They hold 97% of the world's rare earth supply and they control our military and economy with this supply. Rare earths are in every sort of technological product we use in the modern world. How do we remove ourselves from China's grip in this aspect?
They do not hold 97% of world rare earth supply. If anything, that number is an extrapolation from the discovered sources and the discovered sources are always in countries where you look for them. So China holds 97% (though I doubt that number even for the discovered sources) due to it already being a rare earth element powerhouse since no one else is discovering the quantities on their land. Why China holds the market in such a way? It didn't before. IIRC South Africa and the US used to be major competitors but China discovered it had good supply of REEs and started selling them on the cheap due to low labour costs and limited safety requirements. So the rest of the world started relying on them due to this, but there have been some shifts in recent times due to increasing labour costs in China. I know that various US defense agencies have strict requirements that the equipment has to be produced in the US and that they should not rely on foreign sources, but considering this is ore and not microprocessors - not much relevance put to it. So, because of this, the US continues to buy cheap REMs/REEs. Today the market price they offer isn't anything overly good enough to warran them being such a strong producer, but the costs of restarting the industry is a tedious and expensive process. So it is slow, but a couple years back it seemed to start. Since then I haven't put much research into it due to it already being a topic of overhypead importance, in the circles of people that like geopolitics.
The importance of this is highly bloated by media when they decide to talk about politics. Like I pointed out, they use these fake numbers and misrepresent them and want to cause panic to get more views.
edit. discovered where the 97% number came of. It is the estimated proportion of Chinese production of REMs on an annual basis in 2009.. Since then there was that self-imposed trade-limitation dispute.
The Chinese don't actually control anything.
Rare earths are not rare, many countries have plenty of ore. The problem is that extracting what you want from the ore is very, very, very nasty to the environment. If you were politically able to ignore environmental damage and its cost, then you could extract rare earths easily and cheaply. And China is (currently) willing to do just that.
If China decided for example to keep rare earths away from the US military, it would be very easy for the USA to produce all the rare earths they want, as long as they are prepared to accept that some area would get massively polluted. As long as China is willing to sell, it's cheaper to buy from them and have the environmental damage in China, then produce rare earths yourself.