Germany just signed agreements with Kazakhstan and Mongolia to mine rare earths in those countries, in an effort to break China’s monopoly over these 17 elements, which are essential to clean technology like solar panels and electric vehicles.

In exchange, Kazakhstan, at least, will get access to German technology, reports the New York Times.

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China currently controls 90 percent of the world’s rare earths production, putting it in a position to devastate the global cleantech industry should it care to. In 2010 it cut off exports to Japan, which made prices for rare earths in that country explode by a factor of 30.

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