On Wednesday, December 14, I attended the first-ever meeting of the Congressional Rare Earths Caucus. The brainchild of Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman, a leader on the issue of rare earths and resource dependency, the new caucus will push for rare earths supply chain. The U.S. Magnetic Materials Association’s Jeff Green conducted the briefing, focusing on the geo-politics of Rare Earths.
One key takeaway from the event was Green’s treatment of supply chain issues as rare earths move from mining through refining to fabrication into the sub-components critical to green-tech, high-tech and defense-related applications. Failure of the U.S. to develop capabilities along this chain will certainly loop us back into the foreign dependency we face today.
The Rare Earths Caucus, coupled with the inclusion of language in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, tasking the Department of Defense with conducting a rare earths inventory assessment, suggest that this suite of critical metals is coming in for increased Congressional concern. Whether U.S. policymakers are seeing the bigger picture – potentlal supply disrpution of a dozen or more other critical metals – remains to be seen.