iPhones And Cancer Drugs Rely On Chinese Rare-Earth Minerals. What Happens If Beijing Limits Them?

Rare-earth minerals form the central building blocks of our modern world — they're used to manufacture smartphones, construct fighter jets and develop cancer treatments.

But now, China — the world's dominant producer of rare-earth minerals — is threatening to strangle global supplies in retaliation for tariffs imposed on imports into the United States amid its escalating trade war with President Donald Trump.

Last week, after President Xi Jinping visited a rare earths processing facility, China's National Development and Reform Commission — Beijing's guiding economic agency — quoted an unnamed official questioning whether the rare earths trade could be China's "counter-weapon" against the US.

China was responsible for 70 per cent of global production last year, despite only holding 36 per cent of the world's total known reserves, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS)

But despite their ubiquity in our everyday lives and devices, not many of us know what rare-earth minerals are and why we rely on them so heavily — here we answer some questions: