US Announces Steps to Improve Supply Chain of Essential Minerals

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced action by the federal government and private industry seeking to improve supply chains of rare earth metals and other essential minerals used in technology ranging from household appliances and electronics to defense systems. They are of the view that the measures will reduce dependence on China, the main producer of the elements.

Manufacture of military jets requires rare earth metals and other important minerals such as lithium and cobalt. The same materials are needed for cars, computers, telephones, and all other consumer electronics products.

Currently, China controls most of the global market for these minerals.

“We can’t build the future”Made in America” This is if we rely on China for ingredients for today’s and tomorrow’s products.”

President Joe Biden on Tuesday (22/2) announced actions the federal government and private industry are taking to improve supply chains of rare earths and other essential minerals.

The measures include a $35 million contract with MP Materials to process rare earth metals at its California facility.

James Litinsky, CEO of MP Materials said, “Your investment will complement the more than $700 million MP will invest in 2024 to create the US stockpile of rare earth metals in line with your message that these materials are important to our economy and the transition to clean energy.”

The rare earth metals are not truly rare minerals, just that they are difficult and expensive to mine and process so that they are clean. The US is the second-largest rare earth miner after China, according to the latest government data. These elements are essential for the transition to cleaner energy.

Phoebe Moon, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, focuses her research on the topic of global supply chains. “We are using more hydro energy, environmentally and climate friendly energy sources, and the list of rare earth metals that the Biden administration announced in this issue is really aimed at creating these energy sources,” he said.

Other measures announced by the White House include a pilot project for the recovery of essential minerals from mining waste and a project to recycle battery material.

Earlier this week, Beijing announced sanctions targeting restrictions on access to rare earths by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, two American companies that provide maintenance services for Taiwan’s missile defense systems, which China considers its breakaway province.

Last month, Congress introduced a bipartisan bill in the US Senate that would bar defense contractors from buying rare earths from China by 2026 and order the Pentagon to create strategic reserves of the mineral by 2025. [mg/jm]