Followers of ARPN know that China is the big elephant in the room when it comes to the United States’ critical mineral resource supply issues. As ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, an adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, and “Rare Mettle” author Ann Bridges write in a new piece for National Review:
“Where U.S.–China trade and tariff issues are concerned, China now holds a powerful trump card. Many of the advanced-technology and strategic-defense systems upon which our nation depends will not function without Chinese rare earth parts — and alternative parts makers are not in place to fill our needs. Therefore, it might be a bad day at the bargaining table for the U.S. if and when China decides to play its rare earth card.”
To explain the United States’ retreat from being the world’s top minerals producer and exporter in the 1990s and China’s mineral resource dominance, Mamula and Bridges offer a point-by-point comparison of Chinese policies “with the results of past U.S. minerals policies and sentiment about mining — ranging from apathy about critical minerals to open hostility toward their domestic production.”
While the comparison paints a bleak picture, there are ways “out of this mineral-dependency mess.” Friends of ARPN won’t be surprised that Mamula and Bridges point to presidential executive order (EO 13817), which has set the stage for domestic mineral resource reform. The proof remains in the pudding and the Congressional record since the announcement of the executive order has been somewhat mixed.
However, the bottom line, according to Mamula and Bridges stands:
“As informed citizens, we should embrace and not shrink from U.S. mineral wealth. It is an important part of our American resource endowment. Like the Canadians, Australians, and other resource-rich nations, we should insist on and applaud a vibrant mining industry. Investment in the technology and energy sectors now needs to include mining, too, as it supplies us with so much and can also contribute mightily to the GDP.
The math is simple: More American mining = less Chinese mineral imports.
The only real, sustainable pushback against the Chinese mineral-industry juggernaut, which is burying the U.S. with critical mineral imports, is more domestic mining. There really is no other way.”
Perhaps the release of the Administration’s long-awaited defense-industrial base study, which we’re expecting any day now as per the Defense Department’s top acquisition official, will inject some fresh momentum into domestic mineral resource policy overhaul efforts. With Rare Earths particularly at risk, the fragility of the U.S. defense supply chain looms large.