As the developer of a high efficiency wind turbine and high bandwidth direct drive DC generator, I pay close attention to the price of copper and magnets as they are crucial to creating energy. Previously I wrote how China having 98% of the world’s neodymium reserves holds the market on high gauss magnets. The Department of Defense has been tasked with determining whether US reliance on China for crucial components is putting our national security at risk…

China dominates the market for production of certain high performance magnets (primarily rare earth and aluminum-nickel-cobalt magnets) that are important to defense applications such as radar systems, submarine valves, missiles, military aircraft, inertial devices, and precision-guided weapons. Domestic production of these magnets has declined over the past decade. However, DoD demand for these magnets is less than 0.5% of worldwide demand, and the Department is able to access the high performance magnets it requires from domestic sources. The Department is examining whether there is any likely future risk to the domestic high performance magnet industry that would require DoD action.

While the official response from DoD is that the military is able to obtain all magnets from domestic sources, those domestic sources must still obtain those magnets from China, Now China has scored another energy coup with an investment by China Metallurgical Group’s $4 billion investment in one of the world’s largest copper fields in Afghanistan.

The project involves US$4 billion in investment by China Metallurgical Group, which will be by far the biggest foreign investment in Afghanistan and is estimated to provide employment for 10,000 people. Significantly, the project includes the development of a railway system linking Afghanistan to China. (Nepal also has sought the extension of China’s railway system from Lhasa to Kathmandu.)

China’s present and projected power consumption needs can easily explain why they are intent upon maintaining a ready supply of materials necessary to meet those needs. How this effects the US’ equally voracious energy appetite is unclear but this appears to me to be yet another consequence of our foreign policy failures in the Middle East and puts Afghanistan back on the front burner