The Southeast Asian country is rich in rare earths and could supply U.S. and S. Korea.
The United States and South Korea have established a joint project on rare earth extraction in Vietnam, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Friday. The cooperation is part of the U.S.-led Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), aiming to strengthen critical mineral supply chains, and is made possible through the Embassy Science Fellows Program (ESF), which has been coordinating similar projects since 2001. However, this is the first time the U.S. has partnered with a second country to launch a critical minerals project in a third country under the ESF, Korean newspaper Yonhap News reports. Researchers and geologists from the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will travel to Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, to explore projects on extracting rare earths and other critical elements from coal ash for three months.
The MSP chose Vietnam likely because it is rich in rare earths, having the second largest resources of these critical minerals worldwide (PDF), behind China. They are used, among other things, in electric vehicles and wind turbines. In recent years, the Southeast Asian country has voiced intentions of ramping up its production of rare earths to become a global industry leader. The U.S. has since signed multiple agreements with Vietnam on critical minerals, among other things. Growing demand from the tech industry and uncertain supply chains amid geopolitical tensions and trade disputes with industry leader China have prompted the U.S. and others to diversify their raw materials streams. This includes South Korea. The country also has a raw materials-hungry tech industry, and the partnership with the U.S. in Vietnam is part of the country’s strategy to become less dependent on imports from China.