An essential component of America's national defense engine and competitive advantage over other nations is mineral production. As one of our nation’s largest consumers of metals and minerals, the U.S. Department of Defense uses as much as 750,000 ton of minerals each year.

The U.S. is currently dependent on imports for more than 50 percent of domestic demand for 29 of our 35 critical minerals. China officials also recently threatened to cut off our rare earth mineral supply. This is concerning as China controls 80-90% of the world’s rare earths.

Fortunately, the Trump Administration released a government-wide action plan to curtail our Nation's dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals.

Background:

On December 17th, 2017 President Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13817, calling on federal agencies to curtail our Nation’s dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals.

In May of 2018, the Department of the Interior (DOI) took the first step in implementing the EO, publishing a final list of 35 critical minerals that are vital to our economy and national security.

Today, the Trump Administration released a government-wide action plan to implement the next phase of the E.O. through an interagency report entitled, “A Federal Strategy to Ensure a Reliable Supply of Critical Minerals.” This detailed strategy calls on federal agencies to implement important recommendations that will strengthen America’s critical mineral supply chains and defense industrial base, ensure faster permitting times and study the feasibility of allowing mineral projects to be included as part of FAST-41, improve surface and subsurface mapping in order to help identify new critical mineral deposits, improve access to domestic critical mineral resources on federal lands and grow the American critical minerals workforce.

An essential component of America's national defense engine and competitive advantage over other nations is mineral production. As one of our nation’s largest consumers of metals and minerals, the U.S. Department of Defense uses as much as 750,000 ton of minerals each year.

Chinese officials recently threatened to cut off our rare earth mineral supply. This is concerning as China controls nearly 80% of the world’s rare earths. Rare earths are chemical elements that can be mined and found in the Earth’s crust. Rare earths are used in numerous modern technologies including missile guidance and control systems, lasers for enemy mine detection, satellite communications, radar, sonar on submarines, iPhones, electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, computers and networks. Rare earths are included on the Trump Administration’s list of 35 critical minerals.

DOI and the U.S. Geological Survey published a 2018 mineral commodities summary report that found the U.S. is 100 percent net import reliant on foreign countries, including China, for 20 different critical minerals. According to the Department of Commerce, “the U.S. is dependent on imports for more than 50 percent of domestic demand for 29 of the 35 minerals named in [DOI's critical minerals] report. In addition, the United States lacks any domestic production for 14 of the 35 minerals and does not have domestic access to processing and manufacturing capabilities for many of these minerals.”

Our present reliance on foreign nations – particularly those of questionable stability and demonstrated hostile intentions towards the United States – for critical minerals constitutes a serious national security risk which increases by orders of magnitude the more import-reliant our country becomes.

Few countries can rival our abundance of mineral resources but even fewer have a permitting system as inefficient and duplicative as the U.S. While we need to open new rare earth and mineral processing facilities in the U.S., we also need to improve the process for domestic mining. The average permitting timeline for a mining operation in the U.S. is 7-10 years. Other countries are getting through the same process in 2-3 years.

Rep. Mark Amodei (NV-02) has introduced the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act. This legislation that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign minerals from countries like China by facilitating a timely permitting process for mineral exploration and mine development projects without compromising existing environmental standards.

Members of the Western Caucus from both the House and Senate released statements applauding the release of the action plan.

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "A non-classified defense study found that failure to have a reliable supply chain for at least 16 of the 35 critical minerals has already caused significant weapon system production delays at the Department of Defense. A 2018 report published by the Department of the Interior found the U.S. was 100 percent net import reliant on foreign countries, including China, for 20 different critical minerals. This irrational overreliance threatens our national security by imperiling our ability to make equipment and weapons integral to mission success. No other developed country hamstrings themselves the way we do with domestic mining permitting and project delays - let alone a military superpower. I applaud President Trump, Secretary Ross, Secretary Bernhardt and others in the administration for taking action to reduce our dependence on China for critical minerals, for recognizing the U.S. has the highest mining and environmental standards in the world and for implementing a government-wide action plan critical minerals are mined safely right here in America."

Chief Regulatory Reform Officer Andy Biggs (AZ-05): "President Trump continues to focus on protecting America’s national security by making domestic critical mineral procurement a priority. The United States relies on critical minerals for vital weapons systems and materials that make up the gear that protects our troops. President Trump’s executive order streamlines the regulatory process for these projects and increases our capabilities to produce more domestic-sourced minerals. This decreases our import reliance from China, supports American jobs, and enhances our national security."

House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Ranking Member Dave Joyce (OH-14): "Believe it or not, China currently controls the majority of the minerals needed to build items that Americans use every day, like cell phones and computers, not to mention many of our military’s major weapons systems. We’ve seen first-hand how China is more than willing to use its trade dominance against us, leveraging not only these materials, but also threatening jobs and endangering our national security. This cannot continue. I applaud the Administration’s efforts to increase our domestic production of these critical resources, which will not only challenge China’s indisputable control over their trade but also protect American jobs."

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (WY): "I commend the administration for taking this vital step to promote and protect our nation’s critical mineral resources. Wyoming has significant quantities of six of the 35 listed critical minerals. This includes uranium and rare earth elements. As China ramps up the rhetoric on trade and threatens to strangle the global supply of rare earth minerals, it is more important than ever to prioritize American mineral resources."   back...
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