Precious Holdings

From smart phones to weaponry, cutting-edge technologies depend on access to elements called rare earths. What happened when China tried too hard to control them

Nick Mann

59 Pr

67 Ho

53 I

In the dystopia imagined in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the year 2025 is defined by a rampaging cult, a zombie apocalypse--and a war between the U.S. and China for control of the world's supply of rare earths, materials crucial to the production of everything from mobile phones to weapons. Early in the game, a character waves around a smart phone, lecturing on the importance of rare earths. "Who controls all of it?" he asks ominously. "China."

It's only a video game, but not long ago that scenario--minus the zombies--seemed uncomfortably...

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