Information warfare techniques are being used by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to target the Canadian rare earths company Appia Rare, according to cybersecurity experts, in an effort to hinder Canadian mining industry expansion.
The “Dragonbridge” operation targeted three rare earth mineral businesses, including Appia, according to a study by Mendiant Inc.
“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.
“We believe there could be people out that may have more information about the brothers, their recent activities and travels and we need those people to come forward and speak to police.”
Due to their importance in numerous technologies, including the creation of electric vehicle batteries, rare earth minerals are highly prized commodities.
Around 80% of the rare earths produced worldwide are produced in China, which has a monopoly in this industry. Recently, Canada and the US have joined forces to counter China’s dominance and to take advantage of some of North America’s significant mineral deposits for future development.
In order to strengthen their collaboration on protecting essential minerals supply chains and expanding information exchange on resource development, both nations finalized a Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration in January 2020.
Earlier this month, after Appia successfully located rare earth resources in Saskatchewan, the operation was targeted by a number of Twitter accounts that Mendiant believes are controlled by the Chinese government.
Twitter accounts claimed the development “terrifying” and claimed that “lakes will be destroyed.”
The same campaign attempted to incite protests against the Australian company Lynas Rare Earths in Texas by alleging that the business 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.”
Erin O’Toole, a former leader of the Conservative Party, blamed Chinese election meddling earlier this month for his defeat in the 2021 election.
“We lost eight or nine seats to foreign interference from China,” said O’Toole.