|The Rare Earth Situation - there has been concern about the rare earth situation in Western Countries for a long time.|
This may be a longer answer than you wanted.
Most rare earths are found in pegmatite dikes, sort of linear ridges 2-200 feet wide, and 50 feet to a mile long. Mining them tends to be labor intensive, and the processing tend to be labor intensive also.
Rare Earths earn good money for China.
Unocal ownership of Molycorp and the Mountian Pass, California mine was well known. The Mountian Pass mine was partialy shut down by the expansion of a Desert Conservation Area. I understand the ore is close to the surface. Unlike like deep mines which can have flooding, ground creep and cave in problems, the Montain Pass could be restarted fairly quickly. It is not remote, it is about 20 miles from I-15 going from LA to Las Vegas.
California labor costs are a bit higher than China's...
I believe there are some rare earths on the Brush Wellman (NYSE:BW) properties in Utah, in addition to beryllium.
Canada has a large number of rare Earth ore bodies, mostly in Ontario and Quebec.
There has been a search for rare earth deposits, and a number have been found in Africa, Asia outside of China, and other places.
Rare earth consumption has increased with the growth of consumer technology. Because of the increased consumption, there is quite a bit of rare earth in the produciton pipelines for TV phosphor, disk drives, laser equipment, etc.
Inspite of the name Rare Earths, most aren't really rare, just diffused into all sorts of rock, and hard to separate chemically. They are not rare like platinum. To mine them econommcally, you need to find a pegamtite or other rock where they are concentrate - and pegamatites with rare earths are infrequent.
So, bottom line -
Most of the military and economic strategic planners know about this.
It would be hard for China to execute a resource denial strategy that would accomplish anything major. Could they use the economic leverage to dominate phosphor for TV tubes, and thus take over a larger slice of the tube TV market ? Sure. But what do they win ? Look at retail tube TV prices for 19 inch color that isn't a SONY ;-)
Much of the really high tech stuff uses relatively little rare earths - maybe a few box car loads per year for the 50+ companies in the US.
There's a real resource fight over oil, obviously.
There is occasionaly a real shooting war over the cobalt from the Katanga province in the Congo. It is the major source of world cobalt outside of the Former Soviet Union countries.
Cobalt, and lots of it, is essential for jet engines.
The Russian have a great position in the Platinum group metals, Pt, Pd, Ir, Os, Re, Rh. South Africa is a large producer, and there is some prodcution in Canada and a little in Alaska.
The Russains play the Platinum market like a yo-yo, extracting maximum profits.
I don't know about Tungsten, but becuse some of the mines are labor intensive, I expect China has some leverage there.
The above metals, Cobalt and the PGMs, are where I think the US would be vulnerable to resource denial by foreign powers.
The real economy killer right now is natual gas. The high price has damaged the chemical and fertilizer industries, and thus the US plastics industry and farmers. The high plastics then pushes up cost for car parts, furniture, and other items.
The farm jobs go to Mexico and South America, and the industrial jobs go to East Asia.
The natural gas mess is 98% Made in the US.
Strategic resource denial by our own stupidity.
By the way Alan Greenspan made an extensive speech in Congrressional hearings warning of this about 5 years ago.
There are other metals in short supply, but they tend be situated in countries allied with the US or in the US.
Nickle is one, but Canada has huge deposits, currently subject of bidding wars for Inco and Falconbridge etc.
Copper is another, but Chile is the main producer, and there is expanding mine production in the US, plus Canada and Australia have procduction.
Uranium maybe be short, but both Canada, Australia, and the US have major deposits.
I expect it is possible to make good money in all these metals.
How is the questions, but there is a bull market in metals and metal stocks.