Beijing’s threat to withhold potentially life-saving medical supplies and medications in the middle of a global pandemic, during which China has “taken control of [respective] supply chains around the world as part of its quest for global domination,” were a wake up call, write U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) in an op-ed for The Hill. Medical supplies and medications, however, they say, “aren’t the only products the Chinese control that the United States depends on.” With China having effectively consolidated the global supply chain for critical minerals, including rare earth elements, we are now faced with the gargantuan task of “jumpstarting an industry that barely exists.”
Thankfully, as Sen. Cruz and Gov. Dunleavy point out, the Trump administration began taking steps towards prioritizing critical mineral resource policy and re-shoring these supply chains in 2017, and has stepped up its efforts once more with the signing of a new presidential executive order declaring a critical minerals national emergency at the end of September of this year.
The task, as the authors point out, is “exponentially more difficult” than keeping existing supply chains in the United States, because China recognized the importance of critical minerals for high-tech economies well before other global players, and has been jockeying for the global pole position in the space ever since. Write Cruz and Dunleavy:
“Bringing the supply chain to the United States requires granular knowledge of the industry, because investors are sitting on the sidelines of the critical minerals industry for different reasons than they’re sitting on the sidelines of the pharmaceutical industry. To fix this, we have to convince investors to get into a market where they are justifiably afraid China will undermine them at every point of the supply chain.”
They point to Sen. Ted Cruz’s ORE Act and Gov. Dunleavy’s executive action to provide financing for REE mining projects in Alaska as examples of market-based incentives which, coupled with regulatory reform can jump-start the much-needed buildout of our nation’s crucial mineral supply chains.
The ORE ACT “provides tax incentives for buying American mined rare earths and battery minerals and metals; strengthens requirements for the Pentagon to source these critical mined materials from the U.S.; and establishes grants for pilot programs to develop these materials in the U.S.”
Sen. Cruz and Gov. Dunleavy insist that “the entire country has a role to play” in the effort to build out a comprehensive domestic critical minerals supply chain – “from the reclamation of mines and reprocessing of mine waste rock in Appalachia, to mines in Texas, Alaska, California and Wyoming. In Alaska alone, 30 of the 35 critical minerals identified by President Trump are available for extraction, as well as tremendous amounts of commercial-grade graphite, lead, zinc and copper.”
Efforts like the ORE Act are gaining traction in Congress, and Alaska – rich in metals and minerals (with 30 of the 35 deemed critical by the Department of the Interior in 2018 available for extraction) — is assuming a leadership role at the state level.
We don’t have a moment to waste. As Sen. Cruz and Gov. Dunleavy argue:
“At any time, China could cut off our access to rare earth elements and critical minerals. We need to act now to establish a critical mineral supply chain in the United States, and to make sure we can manufacture defense technologies and support our military. Our national security depends on it.”
Click here to read the full op-ed.