Canadian Company Directs Resources to Cesium Extraction, Amidst Chinese Monopoly of Rare Earth Mineral Critical to 5G Technology

On April 24, 2020, Canadian mining company, Power Metals Corporation, announced plans to shift the company’s resources to prioritize the extraction of cesium from their wholly-owned Canadian mining assets. The news reflects a strategic decision intended to address a global shortage in cesium supply — a rare earth mineral critical to several strategic industrial applications, including the development of 5G technologies. China currently controls 96% of the world’s supply of cesium, a market it has cornered through strategic acquisitions and offtake agreements.
These included the acquisition in February 2019 by Sinomines Rare Metals (Hong Kong) Resources (a subsidiary of Beijing-based Sinomines Resource Group) of the “Specialty Fluids” unit (Cabot SF) of Boston-based chemicals company, Cabot Corporation (subsequently renamed Sinomines Specialty Fluids Limited), through which the Chinese state-owned enterprise would assume ownership of the American company’s Tanco mine project in Manitoba, Canada. The Tanco mine contained among the three [i1] known deposits of cesium in the world, alongside Zimbabwe’s Bikita mine and Australia’s Sinclair mining project.  Although the Bikita and Sinclair mines are not directly operated by a Chinese company, their entire reserves thus far have been stockpiled by China through discreet offtake agreements. 
As the strategic relevance of cesium, particularly to 5G and defense technologies continues to emerge, Power Metals’ North American assets could potentially act as a strategic counterpoint to China’s cesium monopoly.