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Chinese Posed as Environmentalists to Scuttle Rare Earth Projects

China has been running a disinformation campaign against rare earth mining and processing companies in the United States, the Pentagon confirmed this week, according to reporting by The Washington Times.

What’s going on: Cybersecurity company Mandiant said Tuesday that “Chinese actors used social media in a bid to discredit Lynas Rare Earths Ltd., an Australian company, and other rare earth mining firms to undermine the critical supply chain for the elements,” according to The Times.

  • Lynas is building a rare earth minerals facility in Texas for the Pentagon.
  • Mandiant investigators said they identified Chinese agents posing online as “concerned local Texans” opposing the construction of the facility. 

Why it’s important: “China has aggressively moved to dominate the global market for ‘rare earth’ minerals, which are indispensable to many cutting-edge technological products, including smartphones, flat-screen TVs, medical equipment and water treatment systems. The U.S. and its allies have pressed in recent years to develop alternative sources of supply and production.”

  • The campaign, which “did not appear to be effective,” according to Mandiant, comprised thousands of fake social media accounts, website and online forums that promoted China’s political interests.

The response: A Chinese Embassy spokesman told The Times that the Mandiant report, which he admitted he had not seen, is one of many “forces in the world [that] are keen to fabricate rumors, slander and discredit China.” 

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