President Trump signed an executive order declaring a national emergency in the mining industry, ordering the Interior Department to increase domestic production of rare-earth materials to reduce the country’s dependence on China.
The president signed the order on his way to a campaign rally Wednesday in Minnesota that seeks to use the Defense Production Act, which the administration used to step up the production of medical equipment during the coronavirus outbreak.
The order states, “our Nation’s undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
The president’s executive order intends to counter China’s dominance in the rare-earth minerals market for decades, Gavin Wendt, a senior resource analyst at MineLife Pty, told Bloomberg News.
Before “the West was happy to be supplied with cheap rare earths from China, with China bearing the environmental consequences,” Wendt said.
The order addresses the repercussions of previous policy, saying, “additional domestic capacity will reduce United States and global dependence on minerals produced in countries that do not endorse and pursue appropriate minerals supply chain standards, leading to human rights violations, forced and child labor, violent conflict, and health and environmental damage.”
The minerals – like cobalt and tungsten – are a vital component to many manufacturing and tech sectors and are used in products like smartphones and satellites.
“Our dependence on one country, the People’s Republic of China (China), for multiple critical minerals is particularly concerning.”
The executive order states, “a strong America cannot be dependent on imports from foreign adversaries for the critical minerals that are increasingly necessary to maintain our economic and military strength in the 21st century.
“Though these minerals are indispensable to our country, we presently lack the capacity to produce them in processed form in the quantities we need,” it continues.
“By expanding and strengthening domestic mining and processing capacity today, we guard against the possibility of supply chain disruptions and future attempts by our adversaries or strategic competitors to harm our economy and military readiness.”
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