You may have seen the story over the weekend on China’s suspension of military exchanges with the USA.
The geopolitics of natural resource geography may be about to rear its head for the first time since the Cold War ended. Perhaps a Cool War is now underway. Americans currently in political power seem to have very short memories to balance their rather noticeable lack of worldly experience. If China were to forbid the export of all components or devices that contain rare metals (including rare earth metals), to any defense-related supplier, then it could insure a crisis in US Department of Defense procurement.
I hope that this is a wake up call to those in Washington, D.C., who play semantic games with words like “strategic” and “critical”, to avoid facing the issue of reviving the US domestic supply chain for rare earths beginning with, and including, mining. With a few hours of the Defense budget or even fewer hours of the stimulus spending allocated as a loan guarantee, the US government could kick start the mining of the light rare earths in Mountain Pass, California (owned by Molycorp) and of heavy rare earths in Idaho’s Lemhi Pass (owned by US Rare Earths, Inc.) as well as restart the refining and fabricating of rare earth based metals in this country.
This would mean that neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobalt permanent magnets, neodymium lasers, nickel-metal-hydride batteries, and fluid cracking catalysts as well as a myriad of other products for both the defense and civilian industries, could be made here in the USA and give our government freedom to make policy without having to kiss a**.
And, by the way – that freedom would also include the freedom to make industrial policy such as a national decision to support making electrified cars in the USA, without being dependent for critical raw materials on politically unfriendly countries.
Disclosure: I am a paid business development consultant to US Rare Earths, Inc.