Aluminum   $ 2.1505 kg        |         Cobalt   $ 33.420 kg        |         Copper   $ 8.2940 kg        |         Gallium   $ 222.80 kg        |         Gold   $ 61736.51 kg        |         Indium   $ 284.50 kg        |         Iridium   $ 144678.36 kg        |         Iron Ore   $ 0.1083 kg        |         Lead   $ 2.1718 kg        |         Lithium   $ 29.821 kg        |         Molybdenum   $ 58.750 kg        |         Neodymium   $ 82.608 kg        |         Nickel   $ 20.616 kg        |         Palladium   $ 40303.53 kg        |         Platinum   $ 30972.89 kg        |         Rhodium   $ 131818.06 kg        |         Ruthenium   $ 14950.10 kg        |         Silver   $ 778.87 kg        |         Steel Rebar   $ 0.5063 kg        |         Tellurium   $ 73.354 kg        |         Tin   $ 25.497 kg        |         Uranium   $ 128.42 kg        |         Zinc   $ 2.3825 kg        |         
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The seven countries of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, plus Afghanistan and Mongolia—hold some of the world’s largest but largely untapped reserves of rare-earth minerals. Three major developments have significantly heightened the importance of these reserves. Firstly, the increasing role of rare earths in modern technology and their crucial part in the clean energy transition have brought these minerals to the forefront of international focus. Secondly, China’s decision to reduce or cut off rare earth supplies following Moscow’s expanded invasion of Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions has forced the West to seek alternative sources, spotlighting Central Asia. Lastly, Central Asian countries view Western involvement in their rare-earth sectors as a means to further diminish Russian control and prevent Beijing from becoming the dominant power in the region.

All Central Asian governments are keen to develop their rare-earth sectors to diversify their economies, traditionally reliant on oil and gas revenues. However, lacking the necessary resources, these countries have turned to external powers for investment, igniting a diplomatic contest involving China, Russia, and the West. This intense competition has been dubbed the “Great Game of the 21st century,” reflecting the historical rivalry between Russia and Great Britain for influence in the region.

The involvement of external powers is crucial in this new “Great Game.” Over the past year, senior officials from these powers have frequently visited the region and invited Central Asian representatives to discuss rare-earth development. China’s proactive approach has seen it dominate rare-earth leases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, aligning with its strategy to control rare-earth markets. However, this has occasionally backfired, prompting opposition in Central Asia and compelling the West to respond.

Increased Western interest has led the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Western allies like South Korea to ramp up their engagement and investment in the region’s rare-earth sectors. Diplomatic activities have intensified, with rare earths now featuring prominently in foreign policy documents. Conversely, Russia’s involvement is conflicted; it supports Chinese activities to limit Western influence but fears that new market participants could depress prices, impacting the Russian economy.

The competition presents Central Asian governments with opportunities to leverage external rivalries to their advantage, though it also brings significant risks. Potential threats from outside, such as aggressive interventions by China or Russia, loom large. More pressing, however, are internal challenges. Uneven development of rare-earth sectors could create new elite classes and regional power imbalances, potentially leading to instability, particularly in Tajikistan.