Reuters reported that a World Trade Organization panel ruled that various quotas, duties and other devices used by China to restrict exports of key raw materials violated commitments it made to join the world trade body.
US and EU officials hope the decision will persuade China that its similar export restrictions on rare earth minerals crucial to making high tech electronic products also are vulnerable to a WTO challenge.
The raw materials covered by the US, EU and Mexico in their June 2009 case against China are used in applications such as alloys, ceramics, mobile phones and light bulbs.
Some of these metals come from a limited range of sources and their supply can be vulnerable to interruption.
Here are the key uses of some of the listed materials:
1. Bauxite - The most important aluminum ore, used for refining into alumina the raw material used to make aluminum.
2. Coke - One of the principal raw materials used in the production of steel.
3. Fluorspar - A mineral composed of calcium fluoride, or fluorite. Used to manufacture products such as aluminum, gasoline, insulating foams, refrigerants, steel and uranium fuel.
4. Manganese - Manganese is essential to iron and steel production because of its sulphur fixing, deoxidizing, and alloying properties. Steelmaking including its iron making component has accounted for most manganese demand worldwide in the range of 85% to 90 of the total demand.
5. MAGNESIUM - A fairly strong, light metal used in aluminum alloys and to remove sulfur in the production of iron and steel. It is the third most commonly used structural metal. It is often used in automotive and truck components.
6. Silicon - Used in transistors, solar cells, rectifiers and other electronic devices like computer chips. It is also used to make concrete and bricks in medicine for silicone implants. Silica as sand is a main component of glass.
7. Silicon Metal - Used in manufacture of special steels and cast iron, aluminum alloys, glass and refractory materials, ceramics, abrasives, water filtration, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, paper, insecticides and textiles. Fused silica is used as an ablative material in rocket engines, spacecraft, silica fibers used in reinforced plastics.
Silicon metal is important to the electronic industry as the base material used in the manufacture of semiconductors, microchips for computers and solar cells used to capture electrical energy from the sun.
8. Yellow Phosphorus - Used widely in many products including fire extinguishers, explosives, nerve agents, pesticides, detergents, animal foods and baking powder.
9. Zinc - Zinc is mainly used a protective coating for iron and steel since it has a relatively slow and predictable rate of atmospheric corrosion of zinc compared with steel. This makes it especially useful as a protection against corrosion in steam boilers and on the hulls of steel ships. It is also alloyed with copper to make brass.