RARE EARTH ELEMENTS (REE)China’s Disinformation Campaign Against Rare Earth Processing Facilities

Published 1 July 2022

China dominates the production and processing of rare-earth elements (REEs). In order to lessen this dependence on the critical minerals, the U.S. government has been supporting the development of U.S. REE sources. China has been trying to prevent this shift by launching a disinformation campaign: China’ intelligence services have created social media accounts of fake local environmentalists who spread disinformation to local communities about the REE facilities being built nearby.

The Department of Defense said it is aware of the recent Chinese disinformation campaign, first reported by Mandiant, against Lynas Rare Earth Ltd., a rare earth element firm seeking to establish production capacity in the United States and partner nations, as well as other rare earth mining companies.  The department says it has engaged the relevant interagency stakeholders and partner nations to assist in reviewing the matter.

The exposure of the disinformation campaign comes roughly one year after the DOD published a Review of Critical Minerals and Materials under Executive Order 14017 “America’s Supply Chains.”  That review highlighted ongoing concerns regarding a lack of transparency and overreliance on concentrated foreign sources of critical minerals in key U.S. supply chains for essential global civilian and national security applications.

The DOD says it remains committed to working with industry, the interagency, and partner nations to promote resilient, environmentally sustainable, and transparent supply chains for critical minerals and materials, both domestically and around the globe.  To this end, the department recently announced an agreement under the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program to establish a modern and world-class heavy rare earth element processing facility in North America. This effort is complementary to an ongoing light rare earth processing project awarded through the Defense Production Act Title III program last year.  This facility will operate under existing federal, state, and local government environmental and worker health and safety regulations.

DoD says it appreciates the diligence of Mandiant in identifying this Chinese disinformation campaign, and will continue to work with partners to provide accurate information related to this and other supply chain investments.