Texas congressmen craft rare earths bill
RARE Act aims to curb US dependence on China for tech metals Metal Tech News – September 2, 2020
Last updated 9/15/2020 at 8:59pm
A pair of Texas congressmen, Republican Lance Gooden and Democrat Vicente Gonzalez, have introduced the Reclaiming American Rare Earths Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing America's dependence on China for rare earth elements and other critical minerals.
The United States depends on foreign countries for more than 50% of its supply of 31 of the 35 minerals considered critical to the nation's economic wellbeing and national security, including 100% import-reliant for 14 of them. China is the leading supplier of 22 of the minerals for which America is net import reliant.
"Ending our dependence on China starts today," said Gonzalez. "The RARE Act will allow the United States to develop a reliable domestic supply of critical minerals and rare earth elements and eliminate this pressure point that could have lasting impacts on our national security and most importantly, our way of life."
Modeled after the Onshoring Rare Earths Act of 2020 introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas in May, the RARE Act would establish tax incentives for the domestic production of rare earths and the battery minerals used to build the technology that keeps our country safe and connected.
"By decreasing our dependence on China, the RARE Act would strengthen our national security, spur American innovation, grow our economy, and ensure the United States has the resource independence required to cement our leadership in technologies that define the 21st century," said Gooden.
To accomplish this, the legislation provides tax incentives for investments made in property used for the mining, reclaiming, or recycling of critical minerals and metals in the U.S .; and establishes a grant for pilot programs to develop these materials in the U.S.
Like the ORE Act, RARE Act defines critical minerals and metals as rare earths – cerium, dysprosium, erbium, europium, gadolinium, holmium, lanthanum, lutetium, neodymium, praseodymium, promethium, samarium, scandium, terbium, thulium, ytterbium, and yttrium – plus cobalt, graphite, lithium, and manganese.
"A reliable supply of these materials is essential to American economic and security interests. We shouldn't have to rely on the Chinese Communist Party for our critical military and communications technology," said Gooden. "Our future technological capacity will depend on our ability to cultivate an economic environment that is favorable to robust domestic production of these resources. By decreasing our dependence on China, the RARE Act would strengthen our national security, spur American innovation, grow our economy, and ensure the United States has the resource independence required to cement our leadership in technologies that define the 21st century."
This House rare earths and battery metals legislation drew accolades from New York-based USA Rare Earth LLC, the funding and development partner of the Round Top rare earth and critical minerals project in West Texas.
"Our Round Top deposit contains $22 billion of materials, including a significant amount of rare earths, lithium, and tech metals," said USA Rare Earth Pini Althaus. "The Gooden-Gonzales bill will facilitate projects like Round Top and other domestic projects in ensuring U.S. independence from China, and strengthen our economy and national security."
The rare earths and critical minerals at Round Top were outlined by USA Rare Earth's partner in the project, Texas Mineral Resources Corp.
According to a preliminary economic assessment published in mid-2019, a mine at Round Top would produce 2,212 metric tons of rare earths per year, including healthy supplies of all six permanent magnet rare earth oxides. This includes more than 200 metric tons of dysprosium, 180 tons of neodymium, 67 tons of praseodymium, 65 tons of gadolinium, 65 tons of samarium and 23 tons of terbium annually once the mine reaches full production.
The mine outlined in the PEA would also produce about 10,000 metric tons of lithium per year, which would help fill the expanding electric vehicle battery market.
"Rare earths and critical minerals are the backbone of any economy reliant on manufacturing; be it defense applications, medical equipment, electric vehicles, consumer electronics, and renewable energy," said Altius. "Billions of dollars' worth of rare earths translates into trillions of dollars of finished goods and hundreds of thousands of jobs. China has understood this for a long time, and as a result have solidified their stranglehold of the critical minerals supply chain."
USA Rare Earth and Texas Mineral Resources are advancing a complete mines-to-magnets strategy that would loosen China's grip.
In addition to a mine at Round Top, the partners are advancing plans to develop a much-needed rare earths separation facility and a neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnet plant. The companies are reviewing their options for the magnet facility, including West Texas.
While the magnet plant will ultimately be fed by rare earth feedstock originating at Round Top, USA Rare Earth is in the process of re-commissioning its magnet facility before the mine is developed, using recycled rare earth materials.
Given the potential of Round Top and affiliated facilities curbing America's dependence on China for rare earths and other critical minerals, Altius said "it's significant that Texas leads the way" on this issue of national importance.
Texas lawmakers agree. In addition to Gooden and Gonzales, five Texas congressmen have signed on as cosponsors to the RARE Act.
Cruz has also endorsed the bipartisan House companion to his ORE Act.
"Our dependence on China for access to rare earth elements is deeply troubling and endangers our ability as a nation to manufacture defense technologies and support our military," said Cruz. "We must take an all of the above approach to ensuring the entire supply chain for rare earth elements and critical minerals is located in the United States, and I'm proud to lead this effort with Rep. Gooden."