Bloomberg: Pro-China agents posed as activists to protest US, Canada mines

Bloomberg writes that pro-Chinese agents posed as concerned local residents on social media to try and spark protests over the opening of rare earth mines in the US and Canada, cybersecurity researchers said in a new report.

The fake Twitter and Facebook accounts were created to give China, the largest producer of rare earth minerals, a competitive advantage, cybersecurity research company Mandiant disclosed on Tuesday.

The fake accounts claimed that the processing facility would spur irreversible environmental damage and radioactive contamination that could cause cancer and deformities in newborns, Mandiant researchers said. The accounts also criticized President Joe Biden’s plan to expedite mining of these rare minerals.

China has used its dominance in the rare earth minerals market, critical for manufacturing mobile phones and other electronics, to threaten the US with export bans. 

These discoveries are not surprising, as so-called green groups have long been suspected of taking money from the Russian and Chinese governments. Bloomberg continues:

“The private sector is now the victim of attacks by Chinese information operations, which are growing increasingly aggressive,” said John Hultquist, vice president for Mandiant Intelligence.

“Information operations are typically a problem for civil society, governments, and platforms,” he said. “They rarely target the private sector so directly and aggressively.”

China understands that it has geopolitical leverage because it is a large miner and processer of critical minerals. It does not want to give up this advantage, and it is more than happy to fund groups that will abuse the U.S. legal system to delay projects that would weaken its grasp on these industries.