USA Rare Earth CEO Pini Althaus told Newsmax TV that the U.S. can still overtake China in the contentious battle to dominate the rare-earth minerals industry.
“We’re getting to the stage where in a few years from now we will not be able to manufacture anything in this country that involves high tech, without coming to China cap in hand and asking them to send these materials,” Althaus told "John Bachman Now."
"We’re way behind China," he explained. He said the U.S. has "probably got a window of a few years" to overtake China as the world's dominant producer of rare earths, a group of 17 minerals used to make consumer products such as computers, televisions, batteries, and electric cars. They're also used to manufacture fighter jets, tanks, and other military equipment.
The U.S. Geological Survey claims that the majority of U.S. imports of rare earths come from China.
"The time is here and now. If we don’t move quickly we’re going to be in a very serious situation in a few years," he said.
A recent report also suggested that the U.S. is vulnerable to China's rare-earth minerals dominance and claimed that the communist nation could even use its top standing as a geopolitical weapon. The Wall Street Journal last month cited a report compiled by Horizon Advisory, which said China knows full well that its dominance in rare earths — which are used in the technology, electric vehicle, and even the military industries — is a significant advantage. "China's rare-earths positioning both implicates and threatens the entire global system," the report reads.
Althaus explained the issue also has wide economic implications. "It's not just a national security issue. It's the economy, it's jobs," he said.
He said the U.S. should never have let China gain dominance. "About 30 years ago, the United States allowed the Chinese to come in to the U.S and acquire the processing capabilities and downstream capabilities to actually manufacture rare earths," he explained.
"This was a significant mistake on the part of the United States and it's put us decades behind China in terms of a critical-mineral supply chain. It's not just defense applications. It's medical equipment. It's any high-tech manufacturing. In fact, 50% of all imports into the United States contain rare-earth elements," he said.
Meanwhile, China earlier this week raised its mining quota for rare-earth minerals by 6.1% in 2020 to a record annual high, the natural resources ministry said, in the effort to ramp up production of the prized minerals. The quotas are closely watched as a supply indicator and typically issued twice a year.
The full-year rare-earth mining quota has been set at 140,000 tonnes for 2020, up from 132,000 last year and includes 120,850 tonnes of light rare-earth ore and 19,150 tonnes of heavy rare earth ore, the Ministry of Natural Resources said in a notice on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
That includes a 66,000 tonne quota granted for the first half of the year and implies a quota of 74,000 tonnes for mining in the second half of 2020, up from 72,000 tonnes the same period in 2019.
China has raised the annual quota for three years in a row.
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