Home » News » World » Pro-Chinese Agents Pose As Residents In Disinformation Campaign To Close Rare Earth Mines In US, Canada
2-MIN READ

Pro-Chinese Agents Pose As Residents In Disinformation Campaign To Close Rare Earth Mines In US, Canada

By: News Desk

News18.com

Last Updated: June 29, 2022, 10:37 IST

A mining/crushing supervisor at MP Materials, displays crushed ore before it is sent to the mill at the MP Materials rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, US (Image: Reuters)

A mining/crushing supervisor at MP Materials, displays crushed ore before it is sent to the mill at the MP Materials rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, US (Image: Reuters)

China fears losing to US in rare earth production, launches disinformation campaign to close down mines in US and Canada posing as concerned locals, Mandiant revealed

Cybersecurity research company Mandiant in a report this week said pro-Chinese agents posed as concerned local residents on social media to spark protests over the opening of rare earth mines in the US and Canada.

The report by the cybersecurity company revealed the fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook were created to give China a competitive edge as it tries to hold on to its position as the largest producer of rare earth minerals.

World production of REEs, by country, 2020 (p) Source: Natural Resources Canada
World production of REEs, by country, 2020 (p) Source: Natural Resources Canada

Rare earth minerals are used widely across the world in several key industries including electronics, clean energy, aerospace, automotive and defense. It is also an essential item in high technology and “green” products because of their luminescent and catalytic properties.

The Mandiant group ran a recent campaign coined “Dragonbridge” where it found that fake accounts posed as concerned local residents and environmentalists on Facebook to spark protests at the Australian mining company Lynas Rare Earths Ltd’s Texas site.

The firm said it remains unclear who was behind the campaign.

The accounts claimed the processing facility would lead to irreversible environmental damage and radioactive contamination which would lead to cancer and deformities in newborns. The fake accounts also criticized US president Joe Biden’s plans to expedite mining of these rare minerals.

China is the largest producer with an estimated 140,000 tonnes of rare earth elements compared to 38,000 tonnes produced by the US. The other nations who also produce rare earth elements are Myanmar, Australia and Madagascar. China was virtually the world’s sole REE supplier until 2012, according to the Canadian government’s Natural Resources Canada website.

China on previous occasions threatened the US with export bans leading to the Pentagon work towards beefing up domestic production. The Pentagon signed a $30 million deal with Lynas in 2021 to build a facility in Texas.

Lynas said it could help meet a quarter of the global demand.

Canada is a host to a number of advanced exploration projects and the government said it may have some of the largest reserves and resources. The authorities launched the Nechalacho project in 2021 in the southeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.

It also has a processing and refining center in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Canada’s Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp were also targeted by Chinese cyber-disinformation campaigns over their mining operations near Saskatchewan . USA Rare Earth LLC also was targeted over its plans to open a mine in Oklahoma

The US Department of Defense will review the report by Mandiant, news agency Bloomberg said in a report. It said it will address the concerns regarding ‘a lack of transparency and over-reliance on concentrated foreign sources of critical minerals in key US supply chains for essential global civilian and national security applications.’

John Hultquist, vice president for Mandiant Intelligence, told Bloomberg that the private sector is becoming increasingly affected by Chinese misinformation campaigns. He said these campaigns are growing ‘increasingly aggressive’.

(with inputs from Bloomberg)

Read all the Latest News , Breaking News , watch Top Videos and Live TV here.

first published:June 29, 2022, 10:26 IST
last updated:June 29, 2022, 10:37 IST