As Beijing seeks to shore up its dominance as a global metals supplier, state-owned shipyard Mawei Shipbuilding is building a vessel equipped with diggers to trawl the watery depths for precious minerals and metal deposits. With deep-sea mining set to begin off the coast of Papua New Guinea in early-2019, the boat, designed by Nautilus Minerals, is the first of its kind. Its development highlights how China is increasingly turning to the ocean to secure control of resources to fuel its high-tech electronics industry. China supplies 95% of the world’s rare earths, metals used in making nearly all today’s electronics products. It has used its near-monopoly to choke off supplies to other countries, including in 2010 when it briefly embargoed rare earth exports to Japan, Europe and the US. But global demand for green-tech products such as wind turbines and solar panels, which depend on rare earth metals, may outstrip even China’s land-based supply, according to the Financial Times.
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