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Green: Over-reliance on Foreign Mineral Imports “Fiscally Foolish and Politically Dangerous”

In a new piece for The Hill, member of the ARPN expert panel and president and founder of Washington, DC-based government relations firm J.A.Green & Company Jeff A. Green stresses the national security risks associated with our over-reliance on foreign sources of supply for key mineral resources.

Citing FBI Director Christopher Wray, who recently told Congress that China is seeking to undermine the United States’ military, economic, cultural and information power across the globe, Green argues that

“[a] major contributor to China’s rising power, and one of its primary trade weapons, is its near-monopoly over several minerals and materials that the United States military relies on to maintain its technological edge.”

As Green points out, our mineral resource dependencies have grown significantly over the last few decades, and the risk of supply chain disruptions looms large:

“Given the nation’s increased foreign dependence, adversarial nations that provide these minerals, such as China and Russia, have gained geopolitical leverage at exactly the wrong time. Russia now poses a national security threat across multiple domains, and China has demonstrated an “impressive military buildup…across almost every domain,” according to the head of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris.

And yet, as of 2017 China was still a major supplier of 26 commodities to the United States that are essential for aerospace and defense applications. Given that the United States possesses mineral reserves worth $6.2 trillion, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), continuing to rely on imports is fiscally foolish and politically dangerous.”

Green commends the administration for taking steps that begin to address the issue, and cites various executive orders and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s draft list of 35 minerals that are considered essential to U.S. National Security.

Meanwhile, he argues, the U.S. Congress has so far missed opportunities to enact legislation that would address one of the key obstacles to domestic mineral resource development – an outdated and convoluted permitting structure.  Rep. Mark Amodei’s (R, Nev.) “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act,” and Sen. Dean Heller’s (R, Nev.) identical Senate bill would “remove a significant barrier to entry, and expedite the mining permit process to no more than 30 months,” but so far, Congress has failed to take steps to pass these bills.  Writes Green:

“The White House, through its executive orders, has shown that it understands the risks of the current, laborious mine permitting system in the United States, and recognizes the potential rewards for encouraging new sources of critical materials. Whether through Amodei’s bill or another mechanism, Congress should also act to mitigate these risks and encourage new efforts.” 

To read the full piece, click here.