In an opinion piece for U.S. News and World Report, Eric Hannis, senior fellow in defense studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, makes the case for U.S. Rare Earths independence from China.
With China having flooded the market with cheap Rare Earths in the 1990s, thus pushing U.S. and other foreign competitors out of the way, China is using its near-total supply monopoly not only as an economic lever, but also as a means to conduct geopolitical warfare.
As Hannis points out, mining operations for REEs outside of China are commencing, but refinement and production capabilities are still lagging, and a staggering 80 percent of global REE magnet production still takes place in China.
“This state of affairs is unsustainable. Our national security and our economic health alike depend upon the development an end-to-end, domestic rare earths supply chain. In much the same way that we should strive for independence from Middle Eastern oil, the United States now needs to make “rare earth independence” from China a key priority of government. After all, the nation that supplies our rare earths shares one key similarity to the region that supplies much of our oil: Neither are getting friendlier to America.”
The question is whether Capitol Hill is paying attention.
As we have previously pointed out, our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources extends well beyond Rare Earths. In case you’ve missed it, take a look at our report on the issue here.