December 9, 2020
Senior Producer, Space Channel
Vice President, Transportation, Infrastructure, and Supply Chain Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Over the past few years, there's been a significant increase by the federal government to reduce the United States’s reliance on uncritical supplies and materials from foreign countries. This includes goods such as natural gas and oil. The Trump administration issued two separate executive orders that called for the development of strategies to increase the resilience of the U.S. applied change for rare earth and other critical minerals.
Rare earth minerals are used in an abundance of products that are essential for forward development. These include flat-screen televisions, electric vehicle batteries, cell phones, and components for military defense systems. Currently, the U.S. imports 80% of its rare earth metals directly from China, while we look for domestic solutions to lessen our reliance on foreign powers. Here are three insights about reshoring national security and rare earth minerals.
The United States Supply Chain Is Trying to Become Independent
The priority of the two executive orders that were passed is that the U.S. becomes less reliant on foreign powers, such as China, for these rare earth minerals. When a country depends on another for resources, the other country can leverage that advantage.
“We want to have a holistic symbiotic relationship with all nations that aren’t trying to essentially weaponize the scarcity of these resources,” said Drew Horn, a former senior advisor for the U.S. Department of Energy. “Our plan is multifaceted. We want to build up our own domestic extraction and processing capabilities. We currently are seeing that the biggest gap that we have is in our processing and separation.”
“We're not trying to look at this in an adversarial or combative way,” Horn added. “We simply want to find solutions to this problem set that will benefit true free enterprise and not allow certain nations to malignly exploit access to these elements.”
Developing Technologies Are a Major Source of Rare Earth Mineral Resources
In order for the U.S. to stay competitive in the 21st century, we will need to have the critical minerals necessary to support innovative technologies, such as the 5G network.
“We have to address the depth of the issue in terms of the supply chain, and that would be the case for supply chains for every one of the critical [minerals],” said Dan McGroarty, principal for Carmot Strategic Group.
“5G is very dense; it's very unlike 4G,” McGroarty continued. “It's a very densified network. The physicality of it is tremendous, and it's going to call into a requirement a whole other group of the same critical minerals.”
“[There is a] a tech war to see which country or countries dominate the 21st century technologically, that would be both on the commercial side and also on the defense platform side,” he added.
Recycling and Reusing Rare Earth Minerals Helps Environmental Stability – Once We Can Get Them
Robbie Diamond, founder, president, and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), stated that “we need to first get [recycling] out of the ground.”
“Something like oil or fossil fuels, you burn it away and it's gone,” he continued. “There's an opportunity to have, as you said, a closed-loop system, but you first have to get it here.”
“Every country will have that ability, but … we have to convince them not only is this something they [have] to do, but we have to all get serious,” Diamond said. “Know that at some point it has to come out of the ground and then we can recycle it. That’s really important, and we can't get ahead of ourselves.”