I am presently attending the Technology Rare Earth Metals (TREM’10) meeting in Washington D.C. . So far the event has been very lively and there have been numerous discussions on all aspects of the supply chain for rare earths, lithium and other metals.
A story which broke this afternoon, of major significance to the industry, is the news that Congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican Representative from Colorado, earlier today introduced a new bill to the US House, “to address the looming rare earths crisis“. The proposed legislation is House Resolution 4866, the Rare Earths Supply-Chain Technology and Resources Transformation Act of 2010 (RESTART Act), and although it shares a name with a related prior draft proposal that was circulating recently, it is a distinctly different approach for taking on the issues that the rare earth supply chain faces in the US. The Act would require that the United States develop a policy to:
“take any and all actions necessary to ensure the reintroduction of a competitive domestic rare earth supply chain, to include the reintroduction of the capacity to conduct mining, refining / processing, alloying and manufacturing operations using domestic suppliers to provide a secure source of rare earth materials as a vital component of national security and economic policy.”
Per the United States Magnet Materials Association, the RESTART Act would specifically initiate a number of key activities:
- Establish a Federal government rare earths working group, with representation from senior appointees of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Interior, and State as well as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Executive Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House;
- Assess the domestic rare earth supply-chain to determine which rare earth elements are critical to America’s national defense and economic security;
- Create a national stockpile within the Department of Defense for important rare earth materials;
- Evaluate international trade practices in the rare earth materials market relative to market manipulation and initiate appropriate action through the World Trade Organization and elsewhere;
- Provide government-backed loan guarantees for domestic rare earths supply-chain development;
- Initiate warranted Defense Production Act projects and programs relative to our national defense and homeland security; and
- Support innovation, training, and workforce development of the entire domestic rare earth supply-chain.
In an accompanying news release, Rep. Coffman said that:
“The U.S. needs to support and encourage the development of a competitive, domestic rare earth supply chain to support American jobs and manufacturing and ensure our national defense interests. This legislation is critical to creating a competitive, domestic rare earth supply chain in the U.S. over the next 5 years. We have ample resources, just not the ability to access and process them. That must change; our national security depends on it.”
Rep. Coffman is scheduled to open the second day of sessions here at TREM’10 tomorrow with a keynote address, and will no doubt touch on the RESTART Act. On or before April 1, 2010, the Government Accountability Office is required to complete a report on the extent to which the defense supply chain is currently dependent upon rare earths; it was Rep. Coffman who introduced the specific language required this report, into last year’s Defense Authorization Bill.
You can see the proposed RESTART Act by clicking here.
[First published at RareMetalBlog.]