China’s northern Inner Mongolia region is aiming for a fivefold increase in rare earth production value by 2025. This comes as the country’s near-total dominance of global supply raises concerns about its possible use as a bargaining chip. “Inner Mongolia’s rare earth industry is in the unique position of having three elements – resources, manufacturing, and research and development – in one place,” deputy chief of industry and information technology Wu Suhai said as he called for a consolidation of industry chains. The region aims to reach rare earth production value of 100 billion yuan (US$15.7 billion) by 2025, he said on Sunday, an increase of about five times over 2020 figures. China’s dominance of rare earths supply is a concern in the West Rare earths are a group of 17 metals essential to manufacturing circuitry found in everyday electronics from fridges to mobile phones, as well as military vehicles. The F-35 fighter jet, for instance, contains 417kg (919 lbs) of rare earths, making up about 3 per cent of its mass. The metals are also used in green technology, such as electric car batteries, wind turbines and solar panels. China’s supply of more than 85 per cent of the world’s rare earth elements has led to fears that it could limit supply as a geopolitical leverage, disrupting industrial chains and hitting key industries of countries such as the United States, with which it has an ongoing trade war. Baotou, the Inner Mongolian city known as China’s rare earth capital and home to the vast majority of the region’s rare earths extraction and processing facilities, reported 21.9 billion yuan in production value last year. To reach the goal of 100 billion yuan by 2025, production value would need to grow by at least 30 per cent annually, Baotou mayor Zhang Rui noted . Baotou’s Bayan Obo mine houses nearly 84 per cent of China’s rare earth deposits and about 38 per cent of the global reserves. Inner Mongolia’s 14th five-year technological plan called for further integration of Baotou’s rare earth industry with hi-tech industrial parks in neighbouring Ordos and Hohhot cities. “Baotou needs to become the world’s ‘magnet valley’,” Wu said in an apparent reference to California’s Silicon Valley. “It needs to greatly develop its permanent magnet machinery industry, with a focus on new energy vehicles and rare earth permanent magnets used in wind turbines.” Wu also spoke of plans for the region to become the world’s largest rare earth trading centre and push for the Baotou Rare Earth Products Exchange to be upgraded to China’s 10th “national exchange”. Inner Mongolia, which accounts for some of China’s most valuable natural resources such as coal, has been mired in a series of corruption cases in recent years. ‘Accountable for life’: Xi’s expanded anti-corruption probe will go back decades A Beijing-led campaign against coal-related graft since 2018 has uncovered 676 corruption cases involving 960 cadres and officials, with some investigations going as far back as two decades. Inner Mongolia is China’s second-biggest producer of coal, churning out more than 1 billion tonnes in 2020. The region’s other major export, rare earth elements, while existing in abundance, is expensive to extract and the mining process is highly polluting. China exported US$80.8 million worth of rare earths in 2020, according to UN Comtrade data. In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese exports of the metals totalled US$116 million.