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US Defense Department in talks to source rare earths outside China

The U.S. Department of Defense held talks with Malawi-focused Mkango Resources Ltd., Rainbow Rare Earths Ltd. and other miners to secure minerals listed as strategic metals in a bid to cut its dependence on rare earths exports from China and search for diversified resources outside the Asian powerhouse, Reuters reported June 5, citing a DOD official.

"We are looking for any source of supply outside China. We want diversity. We don't want a single-source producer," Jason Nie, a material engineer with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, was quoted as saying.

Mkango is developing the Songwe Hill rare earths project in Malawi. London-listed Rainbow Rare Earths is operating the Gakara project in Burundi, for which it has an off-take deal with a Thyssenkrupp AG subsidiary.

The move came as China was hinting earlier this week at curtailing supplies of rare earths in its ongoing trade war with the U.S. China's state planner was considering strengthening its control on rare earths exports to protect and better use the strategic mineral.

China supplies about 80% of U.S. imports of rare earths, which are used in military equipment and a wide variety of consumer electronics.

Earlier in the week, the U.S. Commerce Department outlined recommendations to help the country secure a more reliable domestic supply of critical minerals and help reduce its reliance on foreign producers.