Call of Duty: Black Ops II Rare Earth Elements Plot Isn’t All Fiction

In Call of Duty: Black Ops II players are tasked with taking down a terrorist leader that knocks the Chinese Stock exchange offline with a cyber attack, leading to the ban of rare earth elements exports from China, a conflict that isn’t as outlandish as gamers might expect.


The rare earth elements play an essential role in the iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones, ereaders and other gadgets manufacturing, and are a potential reason companies like Apple manufacture the iPad and iPhone in China.

This isn’t to say the U.S. and China will go to war over rare earth elements, but given that China controls an estimated 95-97% of all rare earth elements in a pit mine located in Nancheng, has lowered export quotas and reduced production during the past few years we may see an escalation in conflict.


While China is not the only source for these essential rare earth elements, it remains the largest supplier as other countries attempt to ramp up mining and production.


rare earth elements

Rare earth elements, Peggy Greb, US department of agriculture

Recycling is another method of re-capturing rare earth minerals, but recycling electronic waste for these rare elements is difficult and costly. In France, Rhodia is working to recycle rare earth elements from batteries, florescent lights and magnets. Given the large amount of e-waste, advances in this field could shift control of rare earth materials. If there is significant money to be made in rare earth element recycling, we may see teens at the  Agbogbloshie dump near Accra, Ghana burning wires to reclaim copper and melting down circuit boards.

The future source of rare earth elements sounds more like a science fiction plot than reality. Earlier this year Planetary Resources announced plans to mine near earth asteroids with robots to bring rare earth minerals to earth.

Mining asteroids for rare minerals and metals isn’t ready to take flight yet, but in 2013 the company plans to launch a telescope to identify targets in 2013. There’s no word on when the company expects to start mining asteroids.


The game’s developers were looking for a plot that isn’t too far of a stretch from reality, which is why rare earth elements became a minor player in the latest version of Call of Duty” Black Ops II. While Call of Duty: Black Ops II is set on earth, a future version of the game could just as easily send gamers to asteroids, without making too big of a jump from reality.