China increasingly flexes its stranglehold on supply of rare earth metals China has a veritable stranglehold on the global supply of rare earth metals, with analysts estimating the country control's roughly 95 percent of global production. Chinese officials have increasingly moved to scale back rare earth mining operations, driving up the price of the critical metals.

For their part, Chinese officials affirm the country's progressively strict laws governing rare earth production result from the significant environmental toll the mining process inflicts. However, officials in other countries worry China is using its rare earth dominance to drive up prices.

China came under fire late last year when it initiated an unannounced rare earth embargo against Japan, in the aftermath of a naval dispute between the two countries. China, now the world's second-biggest economy, similarly cut off supplies to Western European countries, as well as the U.S., though it later resumed shipments.

The New York Times reports the country's scaled back production quotas have driven up prices for a host of consumer products for which the metals are a critical component. Rare earth metals are critical components of computers, smartphones and other electronic gadgets, and prices could rise unless additional sources rapidly reach manufacturers.

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