Canadian media is reporting that a Chinese government-linked online disinformation campaign is targeting two Canadian rare earth companies in an attempt to maintain Chinese global dominance in the sector. According to a report by the Globe and Mail:
June 28, 2022 A prominent U.S. cybersecurity firm is alleging that Chinese government-funded campaigns are spreading disinformation about Canadian rare earths miner Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp. in an attempt to cement China’s dominance in the sector and crush Canadian ambitions. Virginia-based Mandiant Inc., which was founded by former U.S. government security experts, said in a report that Toronto-based Appia and two other rare earth companies, Lynas Rare Earths Ltd. LYSDY ‑5.05%decrease and USA Rare Earth LLC, were targeted by an online network called Dragonbridge, a front for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). “Since rare earths mineral mining is of strategic significance to the PRC, and these entities are challenging the PRC’s global market dominance in that industry, our experts believe Dragonbridge is targeting this sector to maintain its advantage,” Mandiant wrote in an e‑mail to The Globe and Mail. […] In June, following encouraging drilling results at Appia’s Saskatchewan rare earths project, several Twitter accounts that Mandiant said came from Dragonbridge blasted out negative commentaries attempting to stir up public contempt.
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The Mandiant report cited by the Globe and Mail identified several Dragonbridge-linked Twitter accounts, including those posing as local residents, which protested Lynas’ planned construction of a rare earth processing facility in Texas. The report also says that the same network later began targeting an additional rare earth mining and manufacturing company in the US, USA Rare Earth. Mandiant describes the Dragonbridge campaign as follows:
June 28, 2022 Since June 2019, Mandiant has reported to customers on an influence campaign known as DRAGONBRIDGE, comprising a network of thousands of inauthentic accounts across numerous social media platforms, websites, and forums that have promoted various narratives in support of the political interests of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). We have since observed multiple shifts in DRAGONBRIDGE tactics, and in September 2021, we reported on an expansion of this campaign’s activity.
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The Globe and Mail report notes that rare earths are used in a range of high-tech, clean technology, and military applications. In 2019, China was responsible for 80% of rare earths imports, according to the US Geological Survey, although exports fell in 2020 in part due to Covid-19.
In June, the Global Influence Operations Report reported that Canada’s chief election watchdog warned that online disinformation and foreign interference are two of the biggest threats facing Canada’s electoral system.