In a new piece for Investor Intel, our very own Dan McGroarty sounds the alarm on a little-noticed but troubling passage in the U.S. House-passed Defense Authorization Act for 2014. Said section in Title III acknowledges the importance of Tungsten and Molybdenum powders, including Tungsten Rhenium (WRe) wire to a variety of Department of Defense (DoD) applications. Noting that there is no suitable substitute for WRe wire, the bill directs the Secretary of Defense to determine whether there is sufficient supply of WRE wire to meet DoD requirements, and to submit a mitigation plan in case of a negative determination.
As McGroarty argues, “in the case of Tungsten, the U.S. currently produces more than half of the metal it uses each year. Which makes Rhenium the weak link in the WRe chain.”
The reason? In spite of the fact that Rhenium is critical for high-temperature superalloys used in the turbines of the Joint Strike Fighter-35 and other fighter aircraft, there is no Rhenium in the U.S. National Defense Stockpile and the U.S. currently imports 78% of the Rhenium it uses.
With Rhenium being a byproduct of Copper production, the non-specified military applications could be met if the proposed Resolution Copper mine project in Arizona – expected to increase U.S. Rhenium production by more than 200% – was realized.
However, that project remains in limbo with a necessary land swap bill having met ferocious (and largely baseless) opposition by mining opponents.
“U.S. policymakers have a choice to make. They can put in place a strategic resource development policy that would help produce more U.S. supply of critical metals like Rhenium – and, while they’re at it, the 18 other metals for which the U.S. is currently 100% import-dependent – or they can stick with our current faith-based resource policy on the theory that other countries will happily sell us the metals and minerals we fail to mine in the U.S.
Until then, Rhenium will remain an example of the leverage the U.S. places in other country’s hands to provide – or withhold – metals critical to U.S. national security.”
Click here to read the full piece.