China Merger Myth; New RE Processing Method; MP's Binding 1,000 t NdFeB Pilot for GM; GM And VAC Sign MOU; Appian Hit A Rock; Defense Contractor Takes Majority Of Jr RE-Miner; Galileo Sell Glenover;
Rare Earth 2021 December 16
The Merger Myth
Much hype, fear, uncertainty and doubt is being stirred up by media outside China, but also by China’s rare earth ignoramus rex, mudslinger-supreme Hu Xi Jin, editor of China’s Global Times.
We are talking about the folding of China Aluminum’s and Minmetals’ rare earth activities into China Southern Rare Earth Group.
We, however, prefer to base on a quotation from the Book of Han, 1910 years ago:
实事求是 - seek truth from facts.
In our view, what plays a an overarching role in this case are the ideological principles, edged in stone in the Decision of the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Central Committee:
State-owned enterprise shall dominate all relevant markets;
There shall be two kinds of state-owned enterprise: Social enterprise, who serve other purposes and are not expected to turn a profit, and for-profit state owned enterprises.
Rare earth enterprises are of the for-profit kind.
With the postulate of dominance of SOE comes a problem, that has always been present in all socialist economies: Absence of competition, which inevitably turns dominant SOEs into money-burning subsidy addicts, reform-resistent and mostly entirely unprofitable (they also turn into centers of political power, but that is on a different page).
Consequently, in China a key element of reform has always been to pay a lot of attention to competition and a balance of terror between market-dominant SOE. In mobile communication you have China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. In steel you have Baowu, Hesteel and Angang, in heavy machinery China First Heavy Industries and China Erzhong, and so forth.
The situation in rare earth is evident from the quota of rare earth production:
China Northern has 90,000 t of the 162,000 t quota, more than half of the quota and dominates all other state-owned rare earth companies. None of the others has even a third of China Northern’s quota. Regardless of the underlying product mix, this dominance is a real risk to competition in the rare earth market.
China Northern also essentially control the Baotou Rare Earth Exchange, as their product is what is mainly traded there, at China Northern terms.
Who China Southern Rare Earth Group is
100% of China Southern’s hard rock mining quota is Jiangxi Copper, who also are also 73% of the smelting and separation quota of China Southern. China Southern’s/Jiangxi Copper’s separation and smelting capacity upon establishment was 59,700 t (plus recycling 10,000 t), more than double the current quota.
If you now add the ~30,000 t separation and smelting quota of Chinalco and Minmetals to China Southern’s capacity of ~60,000 t, you get to ~90,000 t capacity and quota mixed (!), somewhat closer to China Northern’s ~90,000 t quota. Yes, neither uses its full capacity, therefore mixing quota and capacity is a milk-maid calculation, however, the government can and will then equalise the quota (if there is enough raw materials - different subject). Note that only China Northern’s and China Southern’s quotas were increased in recent years.
However, there are obstacles to a merger. It is important to understand, that Chinalco and Minmetals are key central enterprises, managed by SASAC directly under the State Council, while China Southern, notwithstanding that it was fathered in Beijing, is a provincial investment, partly within the military-industrial complex, a somewhat different power sphere.
Chinalco and Minmetals may be rather unhappy to let go of this recently highly profitable business. They went through a lot of pain to get here. How to compensate them other than by shareholding in China Southern? But on what valuation base?
Jiangxi Copper may see a possibly de-facto control of China Southern diluted. Jiangxi Copper invested billions and many years, to clean up the utter rare earth mining mess in Sichuan.
And, in case of additional shareholding, how would power shift away from provincial shareholders and certain other interest groups?
Also, more unhappiness, not so long ago the then chairman of China Northern touted, that (at that time) unprofitable rare earth companies had no right to exist, essentially suggesting to put them under the supposedly successful China Northern Group, to create a single rare earth giant without competitors. He has since been replaced.
However, Inner Mongolia’s government, where China Northern are located, has big plans, see below.
Essence: The merger may be about more competitive strength, not about less competition. And it reduces the number of people who can be held accountable, if things don’t go according to plan.
You can never be certain in the wild and whacky world of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era.
However, this is our 5 cents.
According to China's Global Times, exports of heavy rare earth minerals from Myanmar to China have restarted following a months-long land border ban to stop the spread of Covid-19.
As we have shown you in our last issue, the rare earth exports from Myanmar to China actually never really stopped. However, Global Times really don’t mind pesky facts.
China’s monthly rare earth exports
By and large 70% of China’s rare earth exports are cheap-as-cabbage lanthanum and cerium compounds.
The capricious changes are due to the generally small and patchy demand-driven exports, and recently the demand of oil refineries and for internal combustion engine car manufacturers having been affected by COVID-19 and the shortage of semi-conductors and other supply-chain hickups.
ORNL’s Chemical Science Division had been experimenting with an alternative DGA called TOGDA, which has a separation factor of 2.5 — already a big improvement over the phosphorus-based extractant. However, a key variable in the economics of the process is loading capacity — how many grams per liter of extractants can be held in the organic solvent without adverse reactions. TODGA could only handle about one-fifth of what the phosphorous-based extract could.
“The TOGDA extractant, when saturated with REE ions, would rapidly transform from the liquid phase into a gel or precipitate,” Jansone-Popova said. “The new DGA ligands allow the system to remain homogenous even at higher extractant concentrations and maintain good selectivity.”
In separating REEs, the new ligands achieved a selectivity range of 2.5–3.1, a staggering improvement for these critical materials.
“Most REE extractants have a separation factor of about 1.5 for adjacent lanthanides across the series — if we get to 2, that’s good. If we get to 2.5, that’s really starting to save some money. If we can get to 3, we’re really happy. We’ve gotten to 6.7 with one of Santa’s ligands,” said ORNL’s Bruce Moyer, who leads the CMI focus area for diversifying supply and is a collaborator on the licensed technology.
What else is out there for rare earth separation:
Options for the separation of Rare Earth Elements (REE)
Green Deal Metals in Europe: Tackling the Zero-Pollution Challenge
We couldn’t help but cringe throughout this panel presentation and discussion.
Hans Bruyninckx, who is executive director European Environmental Protection Agency, is an accomplished environmental policy expert. He held a presentation, where things should ideally be heading.
The moderator attempted to build a bridge back to Planet Earth by suggesting, it was perhaps asking for the maximum in order to achieve the best possible. The answer to that suggestion was sobering: Negative. All or nothing.
The widening disconnect of EU Commission aspirations and reality becomes glaringly obvious.
Meanwhile the “carbon drain” continues.
Meanwhile in China, this publication by Inner Mongolia Province, that is where Baotou, Bayan Obo and China Northern Rare Earth Group are located.
Creativity: The R&D investment of key new materials companies to account for more than 3% of sales revenue, and the total number of key laboratories in the area of new materials in the region reached 25, including 1 key laboratory and 24 autonomous region key laboratories.
Maintain the competitive advantage of steel for wind power, further increase the market share of high-strength steel and wear-resistant steel for construction machinery, upgrade the grades of products such as bridge steel and container plates, and create special products such as rare-earth high-strength steel, rare-earth wear-resistant steel, and rare-earth wind power steel, and promote 800,000 tons of ultra-pure rare earth ferritic stainless steel (special steel) and other projects.
Aluminum: Alloys and powder materials, focusing on the development of high-purity aluminum, rare earth (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, scandium, erbium) aluminum alloys, aluminum powder aluminum silver paste materials, promote the construction of 180,000 tons of rare earth aluminum alloy projects.
New rare earth materials: Focusing on the green and high-value utilisation of rare earth resources, vigorously develop the rare earth new material industry. By 2025, the on-site conversion rate of rare earths will reach over 80%, with a capacity of 150,000 tons of magnetic materials [NdPr], 10,000 tons of hydrogen storage materials [Lanthanum, Yttrium], 50,000 tons of polishing materials [Cerium], 10,000 tons of catalytic materials and additives [Lanthanum, Cerium], and high-purity rare earth metals. And the production capacity of alloy materials shall be more than 20,000 tons, and the output value of new rare earth materials is to reach 35 billion yuan.
The plan goes into much more details of what materials and know-how are to be developed, but this is not our concern here.
Here, for reality check of the a.m. , the proportional composition of Bayan Obo, Inner Mongolia:
China’s officials would never, never-ever use such a simple picture or simple spreadsheets for their plans, because they would become too easy to read and understand.
Instead, the data and numbers are buried in as many pages of text as humanly possible.
Magnetic materials (NdPr, Sm) are at most 23% of the Inner Mongolia output. Not including recovery losses, if Inner Mongolia was to reach ~150,000 t TREO of magnetic material output, ~500,000 t TREO of lanthanum and cerium would come along with it, whose cost of production are a multiple of their market prices. The more you produce of it, the steeper the losses, so there is a certain finality to such production in a company’s balance sheet.
Anyway, if things are done according to their plan, we are talking about a planned output of 650,000 t TREO in Inner Mongolia alone.
How much rare earths who may produce in China is not decided on a local level, this decision rests with the National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC, previously known as State Planning Commission) and the Ministry of Industry & Information Technology (MIIT) in Beijing.
The 2021 production quota looks like this:
Inner Mongolia’s share of the quota is ~90,000 t.
In other words the local Inner Mongolia officials suggest to increase this by 7 times during the coming 4 years.
If it does not happen because of the central authorities’ quota being lower than that, it won’t be the local officials’ fault, if the locally planned targets are missed.
Realistically, given the current demand growth trajectory, a doubling of 2021 quotas by 2025 is possible. But remember, we told you in our previous issue that China’s NdPr facilities currently run at about half capacity. So even if the quota should double, Inner Mongolia could probably already today fulfil a doubling of quota.
Target “on-site conversion rate of 80%”: Current mining quota ~100,000 t, current separation quota ~90,000 t, this suggests the on-site conversion quota is already ~90%. Plan 2025 already now over-fulfilled.
The End of Oil, Explained
We knew about greenhouses gases in 1865, before there was oil. 1959 we understood the risks and 1965 the US-government was warned.
ASX-listed Australian Strategic Materials (ASM) has signed a collaboration agreement with the Korean Mine Rehabilitation and Resource Corporation (KOMIR) to develop critical minerals supply into Korea.
Under a joint statement of cooperation, ASM and KOMIR have agreed to work together to expand the use of rare earths and critical metals in Korea and develop import opportunities that will secure the supply of these metals for Korean industry.
The key areas contemplated for cooperation under the joint statement of cooperation include the import of rare-earth products into Korea, including for strategic stockpiling, and supplying ASM with rare-earth products to enable Korean domestic production of rare-earth magnet feed metal at ASM’s Korean metals plant.
We do not hope that ASM sign away the contents of their deposit to Korea’s version of JOGMEC without significant capital commitments in return. The ASM metal factory in Korea will base on supplies from China for the foreseeable future anyway, but what is in it for the development of Dubbo?
“Bankable off-take agreements” have not led to a single bank financing of junior rare earth miners in recent memory (also, because most of them were actually not “bankable”). At best, signing of such agreements led to a short-lived uptrend of the stock price.
JOGMEC got it right with Lynas, and Shenghe Resources finance MP Materials handsomely to get product under take-or-pay off-take - which might actually qualify for the term “bankable.”
Demand for rare earth magnet raw materials will grow double digits in the coming years. Prices have increased hundreds of percent.
Junior rare earth miner do not need to sign away a single gram of rare earth in off-take agreements, if the partners do not provide capital to junior rare earth miners.
We would even go further and cancel existing off-takes, if there is no sizeable capital commitment from the off-takers.
If not now, when exactly do junior rare earth miners plan to milk the market?
Afrimat, a leading open-pit mining company providing industrial minerals, bulk commodities, and construction materials, today announced another acquisition, this time in the phosphate and rare earth minerals space, through the acquisition of Glenover Phosphate (Pty) Ltd (“Glenover”) for a total purchase consideration of R550 million, consisting of R250 million for the assets and an option, at Afrimat’s sole discretion, to purchase 100% of Glenover’s shares for R300 million.
Seller Galileo Resources announce:
Galileo Resources plc (“Galileo “or the “Company”) is pleased to provide details regarding;
a. Asset sale agreements entered into between Glenover Phosphate Proprietary Limited (“Glenover”) in which Galileo has a 29% direct and 4.99% indirect investment held via Galagen Proprietary Limited who are the BEE partner in Glenover, and JSE Limited listed Afrimat Limited (JSE : AFT) (“Afrimat”) on 8 December 2021 (the “Asset Sale Agreement”). The Asset Sale Agreements relate to the sale for ZAR 250M (approx. GBP11.64M) of certain deposits of phosphate rock located at the Glenover Mine (“Inventory Deposits”) (“Glenover Unconditional Asset Sale”) and mining rights to mine the Vermiculite Deposit at the Glenover Mine (“Vermiculite Mining Rights”) (“Glenover Conditional Asset Sale”).
b. A conditional sale of shares agreement between Afrimat, Glenover and the shareholders of Glenover under which Glenover has the option (the “Afrimat Option”) to acquire the sale of shares in and shareholders loans made to Glenover for ZAR300M ( approx. GBP14M ) (the “Sale of Shares Agreement”) which is expected to complete by 15 June 2023 if the option is exercised.
In terms of rare earth, Glenover is a tailings project with a TREO potential of ~36,000 t.
Earlier this month the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal adjourned an appeal hearing, scheduled for December 8, in relation to an exclusive option agreement for the project and a dispute against Michael Saner (since deceased) and Rift Valley Resource Developments.
According to the company, the Court is yet to schedule a revised date for the appeals hearing.
Lindian is hoping to achieve an out-of-court settlement based on sensible commercial terms with respect to the project.
This is about the Kangankunde deposit in Malawi, mineral resource of 2.5 mio t, ca. 100,000 t TREO. Lindian entered legal proceedings against Rift Valley in November 2019.
This is not the first time someone fell into the Rift Valley trap. In 2011 Lynas thought they had acquired Kangankunde from Mr. Saner and, after an intense battle, they gave up.
Greenland Minerals Ltd (‘GGG’ or ‘the Company’) is pleased to provide an update on its future strategy and management changes as it establishes a path forward for its key asset, the 100%-owned Kvanefjeld rare earth project in Greenland.
Following legislative and administrative changes in Greenland during 2021, the Company intends to broaden its project portfolio and is seeking new opportunities in related technology minerals and metals sectors to create shareholder value, leveraging off its strong cash position of $31.6 million at 30 September 2021. This will give GGG new focus and reinvigorate its activities.
In parallel with these changes, the Company has appointed Daniel Mamadou as its Managing Director to drive the next phase of its growth and development, following the resignation of Dr John Mair from the role. Dr Mair will work in an advisory capacity with Mr Mamadou, who is based in Singapore, to transition the Company effectively.
Impressively, work to date has demonstrated capability for REEs to achieve near complete extraction from lower quality spent magnets and waste (swarf) to near complete recovery to high value rare earth oxide (REO) product quality exceeding 99.99% REO. This presents a potential opportunity to provide a first mover advantage post acquisition to IonicRE in the industrial elemental extraction of REEs from spent magnets and waste, enabling near term magnet REO production capability to satisfy growing demand and lagging new supply chains.
Mimicking Mkango and Geomega, Ionic also branch out into recycling. Soon there will be more recycling hopefuls than usable magnet scrap.
Kalbar Operations Ltd. are owned 80% by Kalbar Ltd, 20% is held by ANRK Netherlands, which is one of the Appian Capital Advisory LLP companies.
Appian Capital Advisory had envisioned to ride the trend of China’s rare earth industry importing more and more HMS, as additional regular rare earth ores and concentrates are unavailable for import to China.
Appian are quite right. In terms of rare earth one should look closer at the supply of HMS, as junior rare earth miners simply don’t come off the floor.
The Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mine near Glenaladale, 35 kilometres north-west of Bairnsdale, will not proceed after Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced a permit would not be granted for the project on Wednesday.
Mr Wynne said he accepted an independent advisory committee recommendation which said the project would significantly affect wildlife, vegetation, air quality, agriculture and horticulture if it went ahead.
The independent assessment also concluded the project would have posed significant risks to surface water downstream of the proposed mine.
The project's proponent, Kalbar Operations, had proposed to extract about 170 million tonnes of ore over a 20-year-period.
the Victoria Government website says:
The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment received the assessment to inform her decision about the project under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The Minister’s assessment concludes that the environmental effects of the project are unacceptable.
Kalbar’s investment concept:
The quantities we are talking about are 190,000 - 250,000 t TREO over a 20-year period, so 9,500 - 12,500 t TREO per year, recovery losses not considered:
The mineralized sand mine at Fingerboards would be processed on site to produce a heavy mineral concentrate, which would be exported to overseas customers for further processing. Kalbar will produce and sell two kinds of mineral concentrate – a non-magnetic (‘Non-Mag’) concentrate, which is zircon-rich, with minor amounts of rutile and rare-earth minerals and a magnetic concentrate, which is ilmenite-rich, with minor amounts of rare-earth minerals. About 60% of the concentrate would be non-magnetic concentrate and the rest would be magnetic concentrate. Approximately 8 million tonnes (Mt) of heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) would be produced from 170 Mt of ore over a 17 to 20 year period. Mining and mineral processing would occur on a continuous basis, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Who the HMS players are in Victoria are:
Mineral Sands miner Iluka Resources (ASX:ILU) was a standout with a ~6% gain on no (on market) news.
It did submit a referral to the EPA today for a new rare earth refinery at its Eneabba project in WA.
Located around 300km north of Perth, the company says it will produce about 17,500tpa of rare earths oxides and carbonates.
Iluka’s rare earth plans are outlined in their presentation to the Mineral Sands Conference 2021.
MP Materials (NYSE: MP) will develop a 200,000 sq. ft. [18,580 square meter] greenfield metal, alloy and neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnet manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas, which will also serve as the business and engineering headquarters for its growing magnetics division, MP Magnetics. The facility will produce NdFeB alloy and magnets with the potential to power approximately 500,000 EV motors and supply more than a dozen models using GM’s Ultium Platform.
General Motors say:
General Motors and MP Materials Enter Long-Term Supply Agreement to Scale Rare Earth Magnet Sourcing and Prod
General Motors (NYSE: GM) and MP Materials (NYSE: MP) today announced the formation of a strategic collaboration to develop a fully integrated U.S. supply chain for rare earth magnets. Under the long-term agreement, MP Materials will supply U.S.-sourced and manufactured rare earth materials, alloy and finished magnets for the electric motors used in the GMC HUMMER EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV and more than a dozen models using GM’s Ultium Platform, with a gradual production ramp that begins in 2023.
GM and MP Materials have signed a binding agreement on terms and expect to enter into a definitive supply agreement shortly. In addition, the two companies will look to collaboratively engage from a public policy perspective to seek policies that are supportive of the establishment of a secure, U.S. rare earth supply chain.
Lets do the math:
500,000 EV motors X 1.4 kgs NdFeB/motor = 700 t of NdFeB magnets;
Plus off-cut minimum 15% = 805 t of NdFeB;
However, the Hummer has 3 motors (see GM announcement re: VAC), so we may assume design capacity of 1,000 t NdFeB for the MP permanent magnet facility;
Roughly equivalent to ~300 t of NdPr metal.
Not earth-shattering, but prudent!
Of course MP’s Litinsky is hyping this to the equivalent of him having landed on Mars.
Old habits die hard.
It seems, MP are not the only ones that GM bet on:
The plant is expected to start production in 2024 and create hundreds of new jobs. The location of the facility will be announced at a later date. The finished magnets will be delivered to facilities building EV motors for GM’s Ultium-powered EVs.
Magnets are at the heart of an EV motor. Within the motors, an electric coil generates a magnetic field to push against strong magnets, creating the torque that propels a vehicle’s wheels. A GMC HUMMER EV powered by GM’s Ultium platform may have as many as three motors with up to 15,590 in newton-meters (11,500 lb.-feet) of torque – all of which is available to the driver on demand. This allows the GMC HUMMER EV to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just three seconds.
A non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been completed. VAC and GM expect to finalize definitive agreements in early 2022.
Different from the GM agreement with MP: The VAC agreement is non-binding.
QVP seem to believe, it is a good time to sell:
MP Materials Corp. (NYSE:MP) Director Financial Lp Qvt sold 343,400 shares of the firm's stock in a transaction that occurred on Friday, December 10th. The shares were sold at an average price of $47.24, for a total value of $16,222,216.00.
On Thursday, September 16th, Financial Lp Qvt sold 1,095,612 shares of MP Materials stock. The stock was sold at an average price of $34.62, for a total value of $37,930,087.44.
Rare Element Resources Ltd. (the "Company" or "RER") (OTCQB: REEMF) is pleased to report that its previously announced rights offering of common shares was oversubscribed and generated approximately US$25.4 million in gross proceeds.
Following the issuance of new common shares pursuant to the rights offering, it is expected that Synchron will own approximately 54.8% of the common shares outstanding.
Synchron is a daughter company of General Atomics, a core US defense company. With this capital raise GA are now effectively the controller of REEMF.
The purpose of the capital raise was to raise REEMF’s half of the cost of the demonstration plant. The other half had been awarded to REEMF by the US Department of Energy.
REEMF expect to complete the demo-plant during the coming 2 years.
In a bid to explore minerals, an MoU has been signed between the Mines and Minerals Department of the Assam Government and Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL) in the presence of Dr Krishna Kumar Dwivedi, Principal Secretary to the Mines and Minerals Department recently.
The MoU was signed by Sri Ananda Kumar Das, Director, Directorate of Geology and Mining, Assam on behalf of the State Government and by Dr Ranjit Rath, chairman-cum- Managing Director, MECL.
It may be mentioned that, under this agreement, MECL will carry out exploration of iron ore, Sillimanite, Rare Earth Elements (REE) etc., in those districts for the next five years. Iron ore is abundant in Goalpara, Dhubri and Karbi Anglong districts.
MECL is a state-owned company.
The mining license process in India is a very difficult one. MECL are a 30% shareholder of Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL), est. August 2019, whose objective is a consistent international supply of critical and strategic minerals for India.
KABIL’s other two shareholders are National Aluminium Company Ltd. (NALCO) 40% and Hindustan Copper Ltd. (HCL) 30%. Both are state-owned as well.
So far, KABIL’s activities have been focussed on sourcing lithium from South America.
Peak Resources (PEK) hasn’t yet reached an economic framework agreement regarding the development of the Ngualla rare earths project in Tanzania
The company and its Tanzanian subsidiary attended a mining contract signing ceremony yesterday which was hosted by Tanzania’s Ministry of Minerals
According to the Tanzanian President, Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan, one company chose not to sign but she authorised the Ministry of Minerals to finalise the deal
More Ngualla drama in the pipeline?
Handley is also a Partner and China Markets Leader for MinterEllison, the largest law firm in Australia and widely regarded as one of the leading legal advisors to Chinese enterprises investing in Australia.
The new director specialises in advising North Asian investors and their Australian counterparts to build successful business relationships across a range of sectors including Energy & Resources, Mining and Project Development and others.
Northern Minerals are probably the one junior rare earth miner traditionally most exposed to Chinese investors. Northern Minerals nearly got AU$ 20 mio investment from China Northern Rare Earth Group/Baotou Steel, but the Australian government stopped it.
Why would Northern Minerals, of all junior rare earth miners, need a lawyer with China promotion background?
The Board of Northern Minerals is pleased to announce the appointment of Nicholas (Nick) Curtis AM as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Northern Minerals Limited.
Lynas is still suffering from the decision to build LAMP in Malaysia.
Compared to beginning December in RMB terms, neodymium oxide is up 3%, samarium oxide is up 4.5%, yttrium oxide is up 6% and ytterbium oxide is up 15%.
As ever, these are ex works China prices incl. 13% VAT for the most common qualities of rare earth oxides/metals, converted at the official onshore RMB/USD exchange rate. Actual offer prices will differ.
There is now a 5% advantage of separated neodymium oxide over keeping it as NdPr:
The same for praseodymium oxide is only 2.29%:
Outside China there is a market for about 400 t of neodymium oxide and about 150 t of praseodymium oxide per year.
A bit off-topic, however, something that will continue haunting China’s international relations for a long time to come:
SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: What Really Happened in Wuhan
Some information did not make it into the documentary, which could serve finding out more about the truth. No matter how fruitless, attempts should have been made to access China sources and/or to get official comments, as the way it is, the whole thing is quite a bit tilted.
Wuhan is the capital of Hubei Province. Hubei Province Communist Party Secretary Jiang Chaoliang 蒋超良 and Wuhan City Communist Party Secretary Ma Guoqiang 马国强 were in charge when the COVID-19 outbreak was going to consume Wuhan
(Explainer: The provincial governor is always a deputy party secretary, the provincial party secretary is his/her boss. A city mayor is always the deputy party secretary of the city, the city party secretary is his/her boss. This way the civil administration always answers to the party, with the party secretaries holding all the power. Between 1983 and 1993 this system worked all the way to the very top, president and general party secretary were separate persons).
Jiang and Ma are both side-entrants to the government side of the CCP hierarchy.
Jiang previously had a career as a finance bureaucrat, among other positions serving as the chairman of Agricultural Bank of China, and Ma had climbed an administrative ladder to the position of chairman of the gigantic Baowu Iron & Steel Group.
Both are suspected of having delayed critical information along China's otherwise water-tight National Disease Reporting System network during 2019, Peking may have been informed too late. This way precious time may have been lost to stop the virus.
Given their core experience, these two may have been overly concerned with the economic impact and may have overestimated their ability to deal locally with a possible epidemic outbreak, not considering national health and political implications.
Both party secretaries were dismissed from their posts on February 12/13, 2020.
After lying low for 18 months, on August 20, 2021, Jiang was appointed vice chairperson of the National People's Congress Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, and on August 23, 2021, Ma was appointed to the Standing Committee of the Hubei Provincial People's Congress.
In our opinion, given currently available information, the epidemic could have been stopped, because China epidemic prevention system since SARS has become seriously world-class. Previous potential epidemics were stopped after only a few cases, no matter where in China what epidemic flavour occurred.
But in Wuhan two high-handed local party officials probably chose to screw up the reporting line. The party core had to step in deal with the mess and send in its most capable people. Regarding the narrative, since the CCP by definition is and must be infallible, the default choice was the path of denial.
History will tell.
Thanks for reading! Have a joyful Christmas season!