In recent weeks, we have seen a flurry of articles and commentaries in national publications discussing reforms to address our ever-growing reliance on foreign mineral resources. The two most recent examples are member of the ARPN expert panel Jeffery A. Green’s piece in Real Clear Defense entitled “Dangerous Dependence on China for Critical Minerals Runs Deep,” and a piece in The Hill by American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark J. Perry scholar entitled “To reduce China’s leverage, rebuild America’s minerals supply chain.”
Both pieces draw attention to China’s mineral resource dominance and point to current efforts to curb China’s leverage.
“Imagine a scenario where the U.S. is entirely dependent on a single nation for oil. You can’t. It’s inconceivable. We would never let one nation — much less a sometimes adversarial rival — dominate our supply of a critical resource. Or would we?
Astoundingly, we have. We are completely import-dependent for 21 mineral commodities, and imports account for more than half of our consumption for 50 critical minerals. Who’s our largest supplier? China.”
Citing USGS numbers highlighting our dependence on materials sourced from China, Green agrees:
“We have gifted China robust trade leverage should they chose to use it. In 2010, during a geopolitical spat over disputed waters, China cut its exports of rare earth elements to Japan. China could easily cripple American supply chains and significantly limit our ability to produce advanced radar and weapon systems by limiting or disrupting the supply of any one of these minerals. Allowing a non-allied foreign nation to control such a broad swathe of critical minerals is a significant security threat to the U.S. and its warfighters.”
The growing awareness of these issues in the mainstream media thanks to experts like Green and others spreading the word is a welcome development. However, whether we succeed in reducing Chinese leverage over our domestic industrial production and national security will depend in large part on how policy makers respond.
Both authors cite recent legislative language pending in Congress that would go far in streamlining our outdated and duplicative permitting framework for mining projects that has so far hampered responsible domestic resource development.
But while the U.S. House of Representatives has passed said provisions, the U.S. Senate has already failed to include them in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), once more underscoring that while awareness is growing, meaningful change will still face an uphill battle.
In Perry’s words:
“The opportunity to put a halt to our deepening reliance on imports for dozens of critically important minerals is within reach. Let’s ensure we have the robust domestic supply chain to guarantee our military has the supply of materials it needs when it needs them.”