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Time for Well-Thought-Out Yet Decisive Action to Diversify Our Critical Mineral Supply Chains

Against the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has served as an eye-opener to many Americans with regards to our critical mineral resource dependencies, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette calls for strong U.S. action to secure our “most critical supply chains” in a new piece for The Hill.

Arguing that “predominantly through research and development, the Department of Energy (DOE) is playing an important role in the Trump administration’s efforts to do just that,” Brouilette says the main areas of focus in DOE’s efforts to reduce import reliance are “critical minerals, uranium, and critical infrastructure components.”

He goes on to provide examples of DoE initiatives for all three focal areas, which range from testing the viability of REE extraction from coal over the Nuclear Fuel Working Group’s development of a “Strategy to Restore American Nuclear Energy” to a DoE-led interagency effort to eliminate vulnerabilities in the United States’ Bulk Power System (BPS).

The human and economic toll of the pandemic notwithstanding, it has been encouraging to see that in the wake of COVID-19, after long period of inaction, the U.S. Government seems to be viewing strategic materials and critical minerals issues with a new seriousness.”

China’s recent threat to impose sanctions on U.S.-based advanced aerospace and military technology company Lockheed Martin in the form of cutting of material supply including REEs and imposing business restrictions on suppliers of the company only underscores the urgency of the situation, and makes clear that China will not shy away from once more playing the“Rare Earths card.”

With our over-reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) critical minerals stretching far beyond the Rare Earths, there really should be no further warnings needed for the U.S. to take decisive  — yet because of the complexity of the situation well-thought-out — action to “decouple and control” our critical mineral resource supply chains.