In a column for the Washington Examiner, Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, asks why President Obama won’t “let the Defense Department face the rare earth security risk,” stemming from the severity of our mineral resource dependency on China.
He cites Congressman Mike Coffman, sponsor of Federal legislation to alleviate our supply risk exposure for REEs, who says it is “unclear whether the Obama administration, which is neglecting proven mining and development strategies that could develop a domestic rare earth supply, is playing to win in the real world.”
Congressman Coffman’s comment illustrates the contradictory nature of federal policy on critical and strategic metals. While the U.S. EPA unilaterally claims broad powers to stop mining projects which would provide a domestic source of critical metals, the U.S. DoE warns that supply for 5 Rare Earths is “at risk,” and the U.S. DoD recommends — for the first time ever — the acquisition of two Rare Earths for the National Defense Stockpile.
Perhaps most interestingly from an American Resources perspective, Arnold points to growing momentum on Capitol Hill for Congressional action, this time coming from the Senate side. Says Arnold:
“The details are fuzzy, but key members of the Armed Forces House and Senate Committees have been bouncing the idea around. U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., isn’t ready to introduce a bill yet, but told me, ‘By encouraging the domestic production and refinement of rare earth minerals, we can reduce our dependency on other countries and encourage economic development here in the U.S.’”
While Rare Earths pose a serious national security risk for supply disruption, friends of ARPN will appreciate that there are 18 metals and minerals other than the Rare Earths for which the U.S. is 100% import dependent — many of which, like REEs, with known resources in the United States.
Senate interest in Rare Earths is a good sign that policy-makers are beginning to appreciate the risks of foreign resource dependency. We can and should remove the policy obstacles to domestic resource development – our manufacturing base, our economic well-being, and our national security depend on it.