As controversial as the pork-laden $2.3 trillion spending bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Trump has been, $800 million will be put to good use in the critical rare earth mining sector. The December 30, 2020 report at Mining.com, Miners praise US spending bill that funds rare earth is welcome news for the mining industry amidst the uncertainty about ongoing efforts to secure a domestic rare earth minerals supply chain under a Biden administration.
Despite conflicting public statements during the Biden campaign where he boasted that he would shut down mining, fracking, and drilling, a report at miningtechnology.com states that confidential sources have reassured the mining industry.
“Joe Biden will support boosting domestic production of minerals critical to green energy and electric vehicles. The Biden campaign is reported to have privately told US miners that the Democrat will support projects crucial to his climate plan.”
Mining Clauses in the Spending Bill
Deep in the 5,593-page spending bill, clauses were inserted to officially codify President Trump’s previous executive orders regarding the domestic REE (rare earth elements) supply chain, and the bottleneck caused by CCP China’s global dominance.
At Resource Erectors we’ve been watching the situation closely throughout 2020, when tensions were elevated by the CCP’s efforts to use their near monopoly on REE resources for leverage in the US/China trade war negotiations. President Trump saw the national security threat as dire enough to declare a national emergency in the mining industry, as Resource Erectors reported last October, 2020.
As global pressure increases to achieve carbon neutral benchmarks in many nations by 2030, worldwide demand for metals such as lithium and copper so essential for electric and hybrid vehicles will soar. But meeting the commercial manufacturing demand for green climate programs is only one factor, perhaps secondary to securing the stable domestic REE supply chain so essential for national security.
A reliable REE supply is crucial for producing defense hardware including:
- Guidance and control systems, including Tomahawk cruise missile systems and Predator unmanned aircraft
- Electronic warfare defenses, such as area denial systems and radio frequency jamming devices
- Targeting and weapons systems, including advanced optics and laser targeting
- Communications equipment, such as sonar transducers and radar systems
- Magnets in Electric motors for vehicles and weapons targeting systems
The US defense and aerospace sectors simply cannot be dependent on the unpredictable CCP for rare earth minerals required for military electronics and weapons systems. As recently as 2011 China owned 97% of the global REE market, and they sit on 80% of identified global reserves, according to the 2020 year-end report at International Banker, RARE-EARTH ELEMENTS: WILL CHINA CONTINUE ITS MARKET DOMINANCE?
The 2018 National Defense Strategy identifies China as a “strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors.” The new funding now made available to the mining industry via the spending bill will put $800 million aside for bolstering US national security as well as restoring the country as an economic competitor in the REE world market.
Spending Bill Endorsed by the National Mining Association
Whether for green programs or national security the pandemic aid and spending package will fund strategic and rare earth minerals research to offset China’s dominance. The National Mining Association, Energy Fuels Inc, and many other REE companies have heartily endorsed the mineral clauses in the spending bill.
Under the spending bill, the US Geological Survey will now be tasked with forecasting rare earth metals demand. This will be a great help to streamline project planning for REE mine operators. The bill also provides funding for:
- Improved geological studies of federal lands
- Research studies on the processing and recycling of rare earth minerals
- Improvements to mining education programs.
The US REE Competition With China on Two Fronts
Securing a reliable domestic REE supply is imperative for the US on two fronts. These are economic competitiveness and national security. The $800 million investment for domestic mining operations and supply chain development should reduce dependence on Chinese exports of REEs in the medium to long term, an effort that is long overdue.
Streamlined permitting and relaxation of environmental obstructions will also be required to allow the mining industry to tap into known rare earth resources. Combined with innovative processing and recycling technologies, mining companies can more efficiently secure readily available US access to the REEs so vital for military equipment. The domestic supply tapped by commercial US manufacturers will provide the competitive economic muscle that empowers the US to compete with China on the world stage.
This will also provide more diplomatic leverage for the US to eliminate CCP threats to cut off rare earth supplies in the long term. To put the importance of this funding for US domestic REE mining in perspective it’s important to note that the US imported $160 million worth of rare earth elements in 2018 and 80% of those imports came from China.
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