Exports of heavy rare earth minerals from Myanmar to China have resumed after a months-long closure of the land border aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19, China’s Global Times reported.
This is likely to mean more profits flowing to militia groups in Kachin State that are allied with the military regime and control areas where heavy rare earths are mined.
Campaigners have said the sale of the metals is strengthening Myanmar’s junta and have called for stricter regulations to ensure major car manufacturers are not using them in their vehicles.
Myanmar is one of the world’s two biggest sources of heavy rare earths, alongside China itself, and global demand for the minerals is rising fast because of their role in green technologies.
Dysprosium, a heavy rare earth mined in Myanmar, is a common component in the powerful magnets used in the motors of electric vehicles and wind turbines.
Tesla, BMW and other leading car companies have all declined to tell Myanmar now whether or not they use componenets that include heavy rare earths from Myanmar.
An industry consultancy recently warned its clients that any rare-earths magnets made in China are likely to contain minerals from Myanmar.