After U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China issued a ban on the export of sand as well as fruits and fish. Netizens commented that the CCP’s action is to return Taiwan to the Stone Age. However, there is one thing that many people don’t know. Although China has an abundance of sand, they don’t have much of the high-grade sand to make chips. Currently, China still has to import sand from the United States to meet its chip-production needs.

Many people believe that natural sand is the main raw material for chip production and a very rich natural resource of China. But that’s not the case.

On the one hand, the “natural sand” imported and exported is not the same as the “natural sand” used to make chips.

Ordinary natural sand is industrial sand such as river sand, sea sand, quartz sand, among others. But to make chips, only quartz sand can be used and it must be high purity sand, having a silicon content as high as 99.999%.

The natural sand used to make semiconductor wafers is a type of sand with a high silicon element composition, good electrical conductivity, and stable chemical properties.

According to different content of silica, high purity quartz sand is also divided into low, medium, and high, and its applications are also different.

Only high-grade quartz sand with a silicon content of 99.999% is used in the semiconductor industry. After that, much more refining is needed to create satisfactory semiconductor platters.

According to Wang Jiuyi, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Geosciences, among the proven high-purity quartz deposits in the world, quartz raw materials have high purity only in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, United States. It’s of white granite.

At the same time, the high-purity quartz raw material mine in Spruce Pine is currently the only mine with reserves exceeding 10 million tons.

Therefore, this place has long been the world’s leading producer of high-purity quartz sand refining materials, providing more than 90% of the world’s demand. The BBC once exclaimed: “It’s the most valuable strategic square acreage on the planet.”

In China, statistical data shows that China’s high-purity quartz deposits are mainly veined and crystal quartz deposits. So far, there is no news of the discovery of white granite or pegmatite sedimentary rock.

Only the Lingqiu mountain quartz mine belongs to the veined hydrothermal quartz type. The analysis results showed that the silica purity of the ore exceeded 99.35%, which is high purity quartz ore.

But there’s still two problems: First, the reserves and the size of the mine are not large enough.

The exploration results of Lingqiu mountain quartz mine show that the mine only has 3.874 million tons in reserve and the mine produces 15,000 tons of ore per year.

Second, the high purity quartz sand produced from the refining of veined quartz ore typically has a silicon content of 99.9% (3N), mostly used in industrial products, such as metallic silicon and silicon microparticles.

It is also possible to refine high-grade quartz sand with high purity to 5N, but compared with the direct refining of white granite raw ore, the process is complicated and it is costly.

Therefore, quartz sand or primary ore in China mainly comes from imported sources—domestic sources are only supplementary.

Last year, China spent 1.3 billion yuan ($188.7 billion) to import sand from the United States. In the first half of this year, China’s imports of silica sand and quartz sand alone reached 2.012 million tons, with a total import value of 680 million yuan. Meanwhile, the highest export value in a month was only 1 million yuan.

Jiangsu Pacific Quartz is the only enterprise in China capable of refining high purity quartz sand on a large scale. Being “the only company,” basically it can represent the situation of the entire industry in China.

In fact, China’s weak point is that the source of high-quality quartz sand raw materials is in the hands of others, specifically the United States.

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