The Commerce Department this week released a report that outlines a strategic plan for how the U.S. could reduce its dependence on foreign supplies of “critical minerals.”
These minerals, including uranium, titanium and other rare earth metals, are used in numerous high-tech products, such as military equipment, smartphones, aircraft, computers, GPS navigation systems, wind turbines, energy, lighting and batteries. As many as 35 minerals have been identified by the federal government as critical to the U.S. economy and national security.
In the 50-page report, titled A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, Commerce determined that imports now account for more than 50% of 31 minerals and the U.S. is now 100% reliant on imports from other countries for 14.
“Addressing vulnerabilities in the critical minerals supply chain through an increase in domestic exploration, production, recycling, reprocessing, industry incentives and research and development (R&D) investments would help reduce our nation’s reliance on imports, preserve our leadership in technological innovation, support job creation and improve our national security and balance of trade,” the report said.
While the report focuses mostly on ways to boost domestic production, it recommends accessing and developing critical mineral sources through investment and trade with countries friendly to the U.S.
In recent years, China has imposed export controls on certain rare earth metals. Today, Canada and Mexico supply all or part of U.S. consumption for many critical minerals, according to Commerce.
“U.S. access to critical mineral resources abroad and the viability of industries producing these minerals in the United States can be negatively impacted by trade and investment restrictions and by foreign conduct that distorts markets through various forms of unlawful or otherwise unfair competition,” the report warned.
“Through the recommendations detailed in this report, the federal government will take unprecedented action to ensure that the United States will not be cut off from these vital materials,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement.