June 29, 2022

Ernst proposes to increase stocks, production of ‘critical minerals’

China’s stranglehold on the production of certain minerals used to make high-capacity batteries, fighter jet cells and a host of other advanced technologies is a threat to US national security, it said. US Senator Joni Ernst on Tuesday.

His solution is new legislation — introduced with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and co-sponsored by five other senators — that would expand so-called “critical minerals” stockpiled by the federal government. The bill aims to wean the country off dependence on Chinese supplies by working with allies to develop new supply chains.

“For decades, China has worked to build a global monopoly on the critical minerals our nation needs to defend itself and create the future,” Ernst, R-Iowa, told reporters.

The text of the Homeland Acceleration of Recovering Deposits and Renewing Onshore Critical Keystones Act – or HARD ROCK Act – was not immediately available.

The most recent list of critical minerals compiled by the US Geological Survey this year includes 50 minerals that are primarily metals. Those that have received the most attention in recent years are cobalt, lithium and 17 rare earth elements – many of which are actually abundant despite the “rare” label but are not usually found in large concentrations, which makes their supply more damaging to the landscape. . They are used to make exceptionally strong magnets that can withstand extreme temperatures.

The United States was once the world’s largest producer of rare earth elements, all of which are mined in California, according to a 2020 Congressional Research Service report. That began to change in the mid-1980s, when China increased its production.

As of 2010, China was mining 85% of the world’s rare earth elements annually and processing about 95%, which allowed the country to reduce exports and significantly increase prices for several years, according to the report.

Since then, potential sites for mining rare earth minerals have been identified in a number of states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New York and New York. Wyoming.

While Ernst highlighted the potential implications of critical mineral supply disruptions for the national military, cobalt and lithium are also key ingredients for all-electric vehicle batteries. Global demand for these batteries is expected to triple from 2020 to 2025, according to a White House report. China is not the largest producer of these raw materials from mining, but it is the largest processor in the world.

Australia was by far the leader in lithium production in 2020, and it shipped nearly all of it to China for refining.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has more than half of the world’s cobalt reserves and accounts for 70% of what is mined each year. The country used to be the leader in cobalt refining, but today around 84% of the ore is exported to China for processing.

“China has positioned itself as a market leader in the manufacturing supply chain through the practice of questionable environmental policies, price distortions, state-run entities that minimize competition, and significant subsidies throughout the battery supply chain,” the White House report concluded.

In February, President Joe Biden announced that the company that mines rare earth elements in California would get $35 million in federal funding to help it refine the ore, “establishing a complete domestic supply chain of magnets.” permanent from start to finish. He said additional funds would be available to boost domestic lithium production and recover key minerals from used batteries.

Manchin said the proposed new legislation is key to securing critical mineral supplies.

“By addressing weaknesses in our current national defense stock, our bill will strengthen America’s critical mineral independence and help ensure we have the resources we need for critical defense products and services,” did he declare.

The co-sponsors of the bill are Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Angus King, I-Maine, and Rick Scott, R-Fla.