Tags: China | Financial Markets | Trump Administration | minerals | elements | rare | production

US Intensifies Rare-Earth Production Efforts to Blunt China

a world map with scrabble tiles showing trade war and china
(Alain Pitton/AP)

By    |   Monday, 05 October 2020 05:25 PM

The U.S. government is intensifying efforts to expedite the exploration, mining, and processing of rare-earth elements and minerals vital to modern technology and national defense in an attempt to diminish China's overwhelming dominance of the market, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The initiative includes help from the Pentagon, which is assisting the development of a processing facility at the Mountain Pass mine in California, and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, a government-funded lender and investor which has invested $25 million with Ireland-based TechMet Ltd. for projects that produce and recycle nickel and cobalt for batteries.

Moreover, President Donald Trump last week issued and executive order declaring a national emergency to initiate the Defense Production Act to accelerate the development of mines.

Companies such as TechMet are grateful for the help, but note it likely will be years before today's policy changes bear fruit.

"To dislodge China's overwhelming dominance of rare earth, in particular, is a multi, multiyear process," TechMet Chief Executive Brian Menell told the Journal. "There are no quick fixes."

The U.S. government has deemed 35 rare-earth elements and minerals, such as gallium for cellphones and barite for hydraulic fracturing, critical to economic and national security, 80% of which imported from China. For 14 of the 35, the U.S. has no domestic production.

Until the 1980s, the largest producer of the rare earths was the United States, but today has only the Mountain Pass mine operating and has no domestic production facilities. China has replaced the U.S. thanks to the abundance of material and much less stringent environmental regulation, the Journal said.

Additionally, the processing of rare earths include the extraction of ores, the separation of elements and then the refining into metal. China has a virtual monopoly on all of those processes with only one competitor outside the country, Neo Performance Materials ULC of Canada.

The founder of consulting firm Rittenhouse International Resources LLC, David Rittenhouse says the U.S. now lacks technical expertise in the sector and will require assistance from allies like Australia and Canada to compensate.

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The U.S. government is intensifying efforts to expedite the exploration, mining, and processing of rare-earth elements and minerals vital to modern technology and national defense in an attempt to diminish China's overwhelming dominance of the market.
minerals, elements, rare, production, cell phones, trade war, national security
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2020-25-05
Monday, 05 October 2020 05:25 PM
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