Friday, June 21, 2019

"United States aims to reshape the critical minerals world"

From Reuters via (also on blogroll at right), June 19:

United States aims to reshape the critical minerals world
The United States has laid out its strategy to rebuild collapsed domestic supply chains for metals and minerals deemed "critical" to its defence and manufacturing sectors.

"A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals", released earlier this month by the Department of Commerce, includes 61 recommendations, ranging from revamping mine permitting rules to stimulating recycling activities to forging alliances with "friendly" suppliers such as Canada and Australia. is very much work in progress. It's only last year that the United States decided on what exactly constitutes a "critical" mineral. The added urgency has come from China's veiled threats to use its dominance of rare earths production as a weapon in the broader trade stand-off with the Trump Administration. growing control of metals at the heart of the electric transport revolution such as lithium and cobalt represents a second front in the looming raw materials war.
In essence, the United States is looking to reshape global supply chains currently dependent on countries such as China or Russia towards what is starting to look like a metallic version of the NATO military alliance.

Proposals to overhaul domestic planning regulations to speed up mine development have grabbed many of the headlines, not entirely surprisingly since they exacerbate existing tensions between environmental groups and the Trump Administration.

However, some of the specific recommendations are simple common sense, such as determining whether the United States actually has any domestic resources in the first place.
Less than 18% of the U.S. land mass has been geologically mapped and even then "data accessibility is a challenge" given some of the information exists in old paper-format files.

"In contrast, both Australia and Canada (...) have developed geological and geophysical surveys and made these available to the private sector," according to the report.

Moreover, the report's authors make the important point that just building new mines is only a small part of the answer to reducing import dependency.

Take rare earths as an example.

The United States does have a rare earths mine in the form of Mountain Pass in California. However, right now the mine is shipping ore to China for processing because its own plant remains mothballed.
Even if the processing plant were revived, Mountain Pass would still have to ship the refined product overseas because there is no domestic capacity to produce rare earth magnets.

"Increasing mining without increasing processing and manufacturing capabilities simply moves the source of economic and national security risk down the supply chain," the report notes....MORE
We follow U.S. policy so you don't have to. See also November 2017's:
Following Trump's Executive Order on Critical Minerals the Interior Department Begins First Ever National Survey of Same