China tightens its mineral exports (again)

China’s commerce and customs authorities announced new graphite export controls (🇨🇳) on Friday (20 October).

Graphite isn’t just for grade school pencils. It’s also a key component in batteries, electric motors, and nuclear reactors – all things the world needs for its energy transition.

And China’s got a lot of it. In fact, according to the US Geological Survey, China produces around two-thirds of the world’s graphite and refines 90% of the spherical graphite used to produce EV battery anodes.

Intrigue’s take: We doubt it’s a coincidence these controls came just a few days after the US announced additional curbs on AI chip sales to China.

Right as the US is seeking to grow its share of the global EV market, Beijing is using its rare earths dominance to signal it can tap Washington’s brakes. Its message? Trade wars cut both ways, so back off.

But we don’t see the US backtracking now. So our message? Maybe invest in graphite suppliers in Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Turkey.

Also worth noting:

  • China introduced similar controls on gallium and germanium in July. It didn’t export any of the two metals the following month.
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