US lawmakers push for REE cooperative
To help establish a domestic rare earth processing supply chain Metal Tech News – April 28, 2021
Last updated 4/27/2021 at 3:25pm
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Congressman David McKinley, R- West Virginia, along with 12 other U.S. lawmakers, are urging the Biden administration to develop domestic metallurgical capabilities for the separation and processing of rare earth elements to end America's dependence on China for this critical supply chain.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the lawmakers wrote, "China's monopoly of the rare earth value chain is a significant vulnerability that threatens the ability of the United States, as well as our allies, to readily procure numerous defense systems and innovate in multiple economic sectors, including the development of advanced energy technologies."
As such, the lawmakers have requested that the Secretary of Defense work with President Biden to issue a federal charter to establish a rare earth metallurgical cooperative to end China's dominance when it comes to processing rare earth concentrates into the REE metals needed for electric vehicles, wind turbines, smartphones, hard drives, and numerous other technological applications.
While MP Materials' Mountain Pass Mine in California produced 38,000 metric tons of rare earths during 2020, the U.S. currently does not have the metallurgical facilities to upgrade the concentrates produced there into usable metals. As a result, all the Mountain Pass concentrates are shipped to China, and the U.S. is still considered 100% dependent on imports for its rare earth oxides, 80% of which come directly from China.
In their letter to Austin, the lawmakers said this reliance on China for rare earths is part of a larger problem stemming from the communist nation's predatory industrial policies and long-term strategic goals to become the world's only economic and industrial power. They said China often steals intellectual properties from corporations that set up operations in the country and then uses the ill-gotten know-how to manufacture products at low prices through government incentivization, forcing free-market competition out of business.
The lawmakers' push for the establishment of a cooperative to bolster domestic rare earths processing is in response to President Biden's February executive order on America's supply chains, which requires Austin and other cabinet secretaries to identify supply chains in which the U.S. is particularly dependent on adversaries.
"Providing a safe space for American industry to innovate by establishing a rare earth metallurgical cooperative could change the lives of Americans by fostering the innovation of new technologies, helping the United States regain its status as a center for industrial manufacturing, and creating American jobs," the lawmakers wrote. "As the President seeks ways to promote American technological innovation, including in advanced clean energy technologies, establishing a rare earth metallurgical cooperative should be a top-of-mind effort for nurturing such innovation."
More information on President Biden's American supply chain executive order can be read at Biden tackles critical metal supply chains in the February 25 edition of Metal Tech News.