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Rare earths are essential to green technologies, but China supplies 98% of them. Some have risen in price 200-fold – by 20 000%– in a year. Is China holding the world to ransom? A World Trade Organisation case is brewing. Rare earths are not rare, say Mark Tyrer and John P. Sykes; but it does need statistics to understand the likely outcome of the WTO case – and why the industry is important.