Cybersecurity experts are warning that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is targeting the Canadian rare earths company Appia Rare using information warfare methods to stifle Canadian development in the mining industry.
According to a report by Mendiant Inc. the “Dragonbridge” operation went after three rare earth mineral companies including Appia.
“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,” a Mendiant spokesperson told the Globe and Mail.
Rare earth minerals are highly sought after commodities due to being a crucial component in various technologies, including the production of electric vehicle batteries.
China has dominated the sector producing approximately 80% of rare earths in the world. Recently, Canada and the US have partnered to challenge Chinese superiority and exploit some of North America’s rich mineral deposits for further development.
In Jan. 2020, both countries finalized a Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration to further cooperate on securing critical minerals supply chains and increasing information sharing on resource development.
Earlier this month, after Appia successfully discovered rare earth sites in Saskatchewan, several Twitter accounts Mendiant believes to be influenced by the Chinese government targetted the operation.
Twitter accounts called the development “terrifying” and claimed that “lakes will be destroyed.”
Across the border, the same operation attempted to spur protests against Australian company Lynas Rare Earths’ facility in Texas by claiming that the company dumped toxic waste.
“If you’re a company, now you may have to worry about a well-resourced actor pushing disinformation, or essentially trying to undercut you politically, or attack your brand,” said Mendiant vice-president of threat intelligence John Hultquist.
“That’s a whole new type of threat for most companies.”
Earlier this month former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole blamed Chinese electoral interference for his 2021 election loss.
“We lost eight or nine seats to foreign interference from China,” said O’Toole.