It weighs a third less than aluminum and three quarters less than steel, but despite its low density it is as strong as other materials: Magnesium has been increasingly used in the construction of cars for a few years now.

This is exactly what could be the undoing of the global vehicle industry.

This may have to stop its lines not only because of the lack of chips, but also because of the lack of deliveries from the international magnesium monopoly: China.

Hendrik Ankenbrand

Business correspondent for China based in Shanghai.

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For weeks, industry associations have been warning that car manufacturers could run out of metal since the Far East no longer supplies magnesium.

The current supplies in Germany and in the rest of Europe should be exhausted by the end of November at the latest, the Metalworkers Association recently warned.

The federal government must have "urgent diplomatic talks" with the Chinese government in order to prevent "massive production losses".

Less magnesium equals more climate protection?

In fact, between 80 and 85 percent of global magnesium production comes from the People's Republic, more precisely from Wenxi County in Shanxi Province and from Fugu County in Yulin City in Shaanxi Province, almost exactly the same except for the additional "a" in the Romanized name is written like a neighboring province in the east. Normally between 1,600 and 1,700 tons of magnesium are produced daily in Fugu, for example. Currently it is only 1000 tons. China's promise to the world to better protect the climate is to blame. Just as coal-fired power plants have suddenly been switched off across the country since the summer in order to meet the central government's requirements for saving CO2, 30 magnesium manufacturers have reduced their production by 50 percent in order to comply with environmental protection regulations.15 manufacturers in Shaanxi even had to stop their production completely at the beginning of September - initially by December.

Since then, China has hardly exported any magnesium. Industry analysts in banks and associations in the West have therefore suspected: Is the Chinese government holding back exports of the raw material in favor of its own auto industry, which would confirm the widespread fear that China is an irresponsible player in the world economy?

Sun Qian, General Secretary of the China Magnesium Association, denies the accusation in an interview with the FAZ: The shortage will only be short-lived.

China will not impose a ban on the export of the raw material.

“The global scarcity is the result of low stocks, not because we don't want to sell magnesium.” Wang Zhenhu, who runs a magnesium trade in Shaanxi, argues similarly.

The shortage will be overcome by the end of the year, he says, because then the government's energy-saving targets would expire.

"At the moment it cannot be assumed that China will ban magnesium exports."

Risk partner China

According to the dealer, the fact that so little of the magnesium still produced reaches the world market is due to the fact that Chinese customers from the auto industry paid the middlemen immediately - while the buyers from foreign corporations usually agreed fixed prices that, given the current price increases, are quickly overtaken and renegotiated would have to.

But that doesn't change the fact that car manufacturers in Germany and other countries could run out of magnesium in a few weeks.

The European aluminum industry, which also uses magnesium in its products, warns that it could soon come to a standstill not only in the automotive industry, but also in construction.

In 2001 Europe had to close its magnesium production because of Chinese dumping imports.

Now 95 percent of the magnesium comes from the People's Republic - and shows the "risk of making the domestic economy dependent on Chinese imports".

Keywords: magnesium, metal deficiency, metalworkers association, chinese, europe, car production, materials, automakers, lack, government, magnesium manufacturers, reality, stop, undoing, construction