The United States should substantially increase domestic extraction and production of rare-earth minerals.

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Key Articles

General — Rare Elements of Security

Pro — China’s Global Monopoly on Rare-Earth Elements 

Background

Rare Earths: Where in the World Are They? This article provides a basic overview of the 17 key REEs and where they are located in the world.

Critical Materials Rare Earths Supply Chain: A Situational White Paper. This paper examines current efforts by the Department of Commerce to develop REE in the US and suggests some additional steps that could be taken.

US Announces Steps to Bolster Critical Mineral Supply Chain. This recent (February 22) article describes some efforts the Biden administration has taken to reduce REE dependence on China.

White House invests $35M to tackle rare earth supply vulnerabilities. This recent (February 22) article describes efforts by the Biden administration to invest in magnets to counter China’s growing restrictions on REM exports.

The new U.S. plan to rival China and end cornering of market in rare earth metals. This article says that while it is feasible for the US to build its own REE supply network it would take 10-20 years to do so.

Effect of Chinese policies on rare earth supply chain resilience. This long study discusses the development of REE in China and how changes in China’s policies impact supplies to the rest of the world. It’s a useful read in order to enhance your understanding of REM development.

An Overview of Rare Earth Elements and Related Issues for Congress. This Congressional Research Service report generally describes the need to strengthen REM production and development in the US as well as some of the legislation that has been proposed.

China and the Geopolitics of Rare Earths. This book chapter is a good history of China REE development and how it came to dominate the market.

The U.S. is trying to reclaim its rare-earth mantle.  This brief article describes the general situation regarding REMs and US attempts to improve its REM security.

PROTECTING AMERICA’S SUPPLY OF RARE EARTH ELEMENTS. This article also describes the general situation regarding REMs and US attempts to improve its REM security.

The Geopolitics of Rare Earth Elements. This article explains the general REE issues.

Mining a Path to Rare-Earth Supply Chains. This is a good general article on the REM issue.

The U.S. is worried about shortages of critical minerals for electric vehicles, military tech. This is a good general article on the issue.

General

The geopolitics of the rare earth minerals race (2022). This article explains how the transition to renewable energy is causing geopolitical competition for REMS that could lead to conflict.

Rare Earths and China: A Review of Changing Critically in the New Economy. For China, using its resource advantage as an economic “weapon” to fight its diplomatic battles is far from the primary goal. Indeed, China’s approach to the rare earth industry has been largely driven by more domestic concerns. One is responding to the country’s growing environmental crisis. In this effort, Beijing increasingly favors the more energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies such as wind energy and electric vehicles that often rely on rare earths. At the same time, it also looks to better manage the environmental disaster that rare earth production has brought to the country’s mining regions. Another core driver is facilitating China’s economic strategy to lead the industries of the future and increasingly master respective value chains – ensuring the country’s long-term economic transformation and providing further legitimacy to the ruling Party. In this light, China’s approach to rare earths has not only been to master resource production and ensure that Chinese industries have the resources they need, but also to increasingly dominate the downstream, value-added industries that depend on these critical metals. As such, China today is not only the world’s primary producer of rare earth oxides, it is also their largest consumer and increasingly controls value chains for key dependent products such as rare earth magnets.

Still, China’s resources are not infinite, and concerns over rising demand and increasingly limited reserves for some rare earths in China are pushing Chinese companies to seek out resource supplies from abroad. As such, a new wave of overseas Chinese investment may mean that the production (and pollution) that was once delocalized to China will increasingly be diverted to other areas of the globe, with China still looking to master the more valuable downstream industries.

China Raises Threat of Rare-Earths Cutoff to U.S. Beijing could slam every corner of the American economy, from oil refineries to wind turbines to jet engines, by banning exports of crucial minerals.

The Pentagon wants to end its reliance on China for rare earth minerals. But can it be done?

Pro — Advocating for US Government Production and Development Support

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill To End U.S. Dependence On Chinese Rare Earth Elements.

On January 14, 2022, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced the Restoring Essential Energy and Security Holdings Onshore for Rare Earths (“REEShore”) Act “to protect America from the threat of rare-earth element supply disruptions, encourage domestic production of those elements, and reduce [the United States’] reliance on China.” The Senators stated that “[e]nding America’s dependence on the [Chinese Communist Party] for extraction and processing of these elements is critical to winning the strategic competition against China and protecting our national security” and that the REEShore Act “will strengthen America’s position as a global leader in technology by reducing our country’s reliance on adversaries like China for rare earth elements.”

This bipartisan legislation is designed to support the domestic production of rare earth metals and rare earth metal products in the United States. To that end, the REEShore Act would (1) require the establishment of a rare earth metals strategic reserve, (2) impose disclosure requirements for certain Department of Defense (“DoD”) contractors, (3) prohibit the use of rare earth metals processed or refined in China in DoD contracts, (4) require audits of compliance with the REEShore Act, (5) require the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) to investigate China’s practices regarding rare earth metals, and (6) require reports on U.S. ally efforts to reduce dependence on rare earth metals from non-allied countries.

As introduced, the REEShore Act defines “rare earth metals” to include the following: beryllium, cerium, cobalt, dysprosium, erbium, europium, gadolinium, graphite, holmium, lanthanum, lithium, lutetium, manganese, neodymium, praseodymium, promethium, samarium, scandium, tantalum, terbium, thulium, tungsten, ytterbium, and yttrium.

U.S. Falters in Bid to Replace Chinese Rare Earths. This article argues the US needs to develop an industrial policy to support REM development.

Rare Earths Explained. This article explains that US policy to develop REM is inadequate and that more needs to be done.

A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals. This paper provides some detail as to what the US can do to encourage REM production and development in the US.

The Calls to Action outlined in this Strategy are listed below.

1. Advance Transformational Research,Development, and Deployment Across Critical Mineral Supply Chains: Assesses progress toward developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies, technological alternatives to critical minerals, source diversification, and improving processes for critical mineral extraction, separation, purification, and alloying.

2. Strengthen America’s Critical Mineral Supply Chains and Defense Industrial Base: Discusses ways to improve critical mineral supply chains, which could help reduce risks to U.S. supply by increasing domestic critical mineral resource development, building robust downstream manufacturing capabilities, and ensuring sufficient productive capacity.

3. Enhance International Trade and Cooperation Related to Critical Minerals: Identifies options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with America’s allies, discusses areas for international collaboration and cooperation, and ensures robust enforcement of U.S. trade laws and international agreements that help address adverse impacts of market-distorting foreign trade conduct.

4. Improve Understanding of Domestic Critical Mineral Resources: Provides a plan to: improve and publicize the topographical, geological, geophysical, and bathymetrical mapping of the United States; support mineral information collection and analysis of commodity-specific mitigation strategies; focus and prioritizeinteragency efforts; and conduct critical mineral resource assessments to support domestic mineral exploration and development of conventional sources (minerals obtained directly through mining an ore), secondary sources (recycled materials, post-industrial, and post-consumer materials), and unconventional sources (minerals obtained from sources such as mine tailings, coal byproducts, extraction from seawater, and geothermal brines) of critical minerals.

5. Improve Access to Domestic Critical Mineral Resources on Federal Lands and Reduce Federal Permitting Timeframes: Provides recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes related to developing mining claims or leases and enhancing access to domestic critical mineral resources.

6. Grow the American Critical Minerals Workforce: Discusses the activities related to critical minerals needed to develop and maintain a strong domestic workforce to foster a robust domestic industrial base

Critical Rare Earths, National Security, and U.S.-China Interactions (2015). In recent decades, China has become the world’s principal source of rare earths extraction, processing, and manufacturing of its derivative goods. China’s monopoly is partly a result of its rich geological endowment, particularly of the “heavy” rare earths that are increasingly valuable in green energy and military technology applications. The country’s rapid industry consolidation, however, has been abetted by unfair policies such as export restrictions that subsidized domestic producers. Furthermore, Beijing has indicated a tight-fisted disposition, intent on reserving its rare earths for domestic consumers and preferring that trade partners “find their own sources.” This dissertation examines how the U.S. can pursue a portfolio of policies to reduce American vulnerability to the supply disruption of one critical heavy rare earth, dysprosium. Intended primary for U.S. policy makers, the study first provides a consolidated narrative of the interplay of politics, economics, and geology of rare earths in general and dysprosium in particular. It then systematically evaluates the effectiveness and costs of a roster of new and incumbent policies. A new strategic planning framework leverages mixed-integer linear programming to concoct policy portfolios that maximize U.S. resiliency to dysprosium supply disruptions at given budget levels. This enables a trade-off analysis comparing the portfolios’ vulnerability reduction effectiveness against their costs. This analysis culminates with a recommendation of the portfolio that balances fiscal feasibility with acceptable vulnerability reduction. The hope is that the method and research findings will also serve as a generalizable template for mitigating the criticality of other vulnerable rare earths and materials.

Note: We have avoided cutting this since it’s from 2015, but when you have time the general solvency stuff may be useful to cut.

Ending China’s Chokehold on Rare-earth Minerals

National defense requires only 5% to 10% of total U.S. rare-earth demand, but the minerals are critical to munitions, satellites, missiles and microelectronics, so the Defense Department has been using investments to subsidize domestic production under the Defense Production Act, authorized by the White House in April because of the coronavirus epidemic. The department is also providing grants to spur private investment in processing facilities in the U.S. and allied countries.

These investments will be important contributions to the solution, but rare earths will remain a serious vulnerability if the U.S. doesn’t do much more to create resilience and reduce China’s ability to suffocate access to processed rare earths. Market forces are impeding, not advancing, solutions. Coherent and sustained government actions are essential. Our recommendations include:

Encourage manufacturers to stockpile three months’ worth of supplies. Businesses may be hesitant to purchase and store stockpiles, but Japan’s experience in 2010 ought to persuade them that it’s in their interest to cushion against any attempt to disrupt production by constricting supply.

Legislate priority of supplies to the Defense Department. The Pentagon will be funding large investments to ensure profitability of commercial mining and processing. This calls for Congress to ensure that in a crisis, national defense gets first drawing rights on both domestic production and imports.

Expand rare-earth mining on public lands. Reopening domestic mines will require permits often resisted by local residents. Public lands provide a means of speeding up production while also demonstrating advances that address environmental concerns.

Subsidize commercial innovation to reduce foreign reliance. Companies from the U.S. and its allies are developing extraction and high-purity refinement processes that are less environmentally harmful. Government subsidies to qualifying companies of the kind the Defense Department is already offering will spur innovation that reduces over-reliance on any one approach.

Ratify the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. Deep-seabed mining would provide additional mineral sources, and U.S. companies are interested in pursuing development. But they need international legal protections guaranteed in the UN treaty — which the U.S. signed in 1994 but has not ratified — to provide the predictability for investment.

China is a Paper Tiger on Rare Earth Minerals

Even though China’s posturing on REMs is unlikely to have its intended effect, the United States should use this occasion to improve its posture regarding these strategic resources by reforming outdated regulations and planning for the future.

*Reform Outdated Environmental Statutes. Congress should reform outdated environmental statutes that comport with economic development and environmental protection. This includes reforming and modernizing federal water policy and major environmental statutes.

*Clearly define “navigable waters” in the Clean Water Act to strictly limit federal authority.

*Prohibit both pre-emptive and retroactive vetoes under Section404 of the Clean Water Act.

*Empower states to manage their water resources—while preventing them from abusing Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to block projects for non-water issues.

*Repeal the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Rather than improving environmental outcomes, NEPA has evolved to become a tool to delay and obstruct projects that are unpopular with special interest groups or politicians who ignore scientific and technical logic. Far from compromising environmental stewardship repealing NEPA will provide an opportunity to remove duplication of state environmental and other federal requirements.

*Reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA has largely been an ineffective conservation tool, but it has succeeded in blocking economic development, creating perverse incentives, and engendering unintended consequences.

*Prohibit the use of the social cost of carbon (SCC) in regulatory proceedings, and eliminate agencies’ ability to regulate greenhouse gases. The federal government uses the SCC to calculate the climate benefit of abated carbon-dioxide emissions from regulations or the “climate cost” of infrastructure projects. Models used to estimate the SCC are highly subjective—and are inadequate tools for policymaking.

*Study REM Stockpiles. Congress should require the Department of Defense to provide a report on the ability of the National Defense Stockpile to provide an uninterrupted supply of required rare earth elements to the defense industrial base to support the production of key weapon systems in the event such minerals are not available from the People’s Republic of China and/or Russia. This report should also include potential options for methods, other than stockpiling, to secure the rare earth supply chain.

*Protect Mountain Pass. The U.S. should prohibit the sale of Mountain Pass to any foreign investor. This would be justified under a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

US dependence on China for rare earth minerals is a disaster waiting to happen. This article argues that we need to repeal environmental regulations in order to support domestic REM development.

Rare Earths: Fighting for the Fuel of the Future. This article explains the Pro argument and explains the US should pass the ORE Act.

Pro — Status Quo Doesn’t Solve

Why the U.S. Can’t Break China’s Monopoly on Rare Earth Metals. This argues that relying on private enterprise won’t solve.

Pro — Recycling

Coal states explore how to recycle rare earths from mine waste. This article argues coal and REM recycling will increase REM availability and reduce pollution.

Pro — Environment

The fight for rare earth minerals.  This article argues it would be better to develop REMS in the US for environmental reasons.

DOE Launches $140 Million Program to Develop America’s First-of-a-Kind Critical Minerals Refinery. This article discusses fossil fuel waste reprocessing to obtain REE.

Pro — Military

The US is heavily reliant on China and Russia for its ammo supply chain. Congress wants to fix that. Congress seeks to more than double the net worth of the national strategic mineral stockpile to lessen the defense industrial base’s reliance on adversaries such as China for supplies needed to build everything from bullets to nuclear weapons to night vision goggles.

Pro — China Dominance

Some Perspective on China and “Rare Earth” Minerals. Another good general article.

China Dominates the Rare Earths Supply Chain.  This is a strong article that says that China can cut-off REM supplies.

U.S. Startups Seek to Claw Back China’s Share of ‘Technology Minerals’ Market.  This article explains how China has a majority share of the REE resource market but dominates the REE refinement market.

Pentagon bankrolls rare earth plant as US plays catch-up with China.. This article generally describes the efforts by the Department of Defense (DOD) to reduce mineral dependence on China.

China Solidifies Dominance in Rare Earth Processing.  This is another general dominance article.

How the United States Handed China Its Rare-Earth Monopoly And how Washington could get it back. This article describes the problem of China’s dominance of the REE market and proposes one solution.

America’s Security Needs a Cooperative Rebuilding of Rare-Earth Supply Chains. This article causes for passing the REShoring Act to challenge China’s dominance of the REE market.

Myers: Congress must help US break free from China’s rare-earth grip. This is another general China article.

Disrupting China’s Rare Earth Element Hegemony Although the United States has now come to terms with the dangers of Chinese REE dominance, an “America First” approach that aims to take back global REE dominance is not a satisfactory solution. First, simply funneling money into domestic REE production is not enough to work. America lacks the resources and technological know-how to rival China’s REE production in a short timeframe. Jen-Yi Chen, associate professor of operations and supply chain management at Cleveland State University, says that completely decoupling with China in REE procurement “would be too costly and not sustainable, as we are not that resource-rich.” Indeed, China dedicated significant funding and resources for several decades to achieve its current scientific prowess on REEs. The United States must be realistic in developing a strategy that catches up on decades of lost progress

An elemental issue

China controls roughly 90 percent of the rare-earth materials used in high-tech manufacturing, but the United States, Australia and Japan are exploring new sources that could end the Chinese monopoly.

The U.S. military is facing a potential crisis at the very bottom of its supply chain. Rare-earth elements have become the new oil, playing a major role in the technological advancements made in the last 50 years. Everything from GPS navigation capability, cell phones, fiber optics, computers, automobiles and missiles relies heavily on rare-earth elements for development and production. For example, according to a 2013 report from the Congressional Research Service, each F-35 Lightning II aircraft requires 920 pounds of rare-earth materials. Rare earths, including yttrium and terbium, are used for laser targeting and weapons in combat vehicles.

Chinese rare earth consolidation a cause for concern. This article discusses China’s plan to increase dominance of the REE market.

China’s stranglehold of the rare earths supply chain will last another decade.  This article explains that while the production in REE is increasing globally, China will still dominate the processing of REE and that that will last for at least another decade.

China rare earth consolidation and market power. This article is more descriptive of China’s REE dominance and doesn’t appear to have evidence, though it could become useful for something as the fall progresses.

“China’s rare earth exports plunge to record low in 2020: GAC This article describes how China has started to limit REE.

Mary Hui, “A Chinese rare earths giant is building international alliances worldwide,”This is just another article on how China how China dominates the REE markets.

Pro — Semiconductors

Building Resilient Supply Chains, Revitalizing American Manufacturing and Fostering Broad-Based Growth (pages 151-204). This article focuses on the importance of semiconductors to the economy and military as well as US dependence on foreign supplies.

Pro — General

The US has a critical need for rare earth minerals that enable clean energy, and this exploration company may have found the largest deposits in North America. This is a short pro article that explains the issue with regards to dependence on REE and claims that acting to solve it is politically popular.

China’s Global Monopoly on Rare Earth Elements. This article delivers a novel economic analysis of US dependence on China for rare-earth elements and sheds light on how Western nations may exploit “limit pricing” to break China’s global monopoly in rare-earth element production and refinement. This analytical framework, supported by a comprehensive literature review, the application of microeconomic and industrial organization concepts, and two case-study scenarios, provides several policy recommendations to address an important foreign policy challenge for the United States.

China’s Monopoly on Rare Earth Elements and Why We Should Care. This article says the US needs to act to support REE but that it won’t be easy to adopt policies that have a major impact.

The U.S. is worried about shortages of critical minerals for electric vehicles, military tech

Con — General

FACT SHEET: Securing a Made in America Supply Chain for Critical Minerals. This article describes current efforts to address the REE Issue

Con — China Answers

Does China Pose a Threat to Global Rare Earth Supply Chains? As China’s domestic consumption of rare earths grows, the country will be increasingly reliant on imports to feed its appetite for the materials. China already became the world’s largest importer of rare earths in 2018, and it is expected to become a net importer by the middle of the decade. Under these conditions, Beijing’s influence over the global rare earth industry would be significantly reduced, and new players might finally find themselves able to compete.

Column: Rare earths trade gun is loaded; will China pull the trigger?,” Reuters, May 23, 2019, This article explores many reasons why China won’t cut-off REE exports.

Rare earths could be the next front in the US-China trade war. Here’s what you should know. The article discusses reasons China won’t cut-off REM exports.

Con — Recycling Answers

DOE looks to coal wastes to increase US supply of rare-earth elements.

Europe

Critical Raw Materials for Strategic Technologies and Sectors in the EU,European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2020,

Con — Environment

Left-wing party opposed to rare earth mining project wins Greenland election

Rare Earth Minerals Pose Challenge in Clean Energy Transition China

Boom in Mining Rare Earths Poses Mounting Toxic Risks. This article explains how REM mining destroys the environment.

Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages. This article explains the impact REM mining has had on Chinese villages.

China dominates the rare earth market This article discusses problems with China’s dominance of the REE market but it also reviews how REE mining and processing hurts the environment.

China — Africa

Aaron Ross and Karin Strohecker, “EXCLUSIVE Congo reviewing $6 bln mining deal with Chinese investors,” Reuters, August 30, 2021,

Batteries

Why China Is Dominating Lithium-Ion Battery Production,  This is a general article about the importance of lithium batters and how REE power such batteries.

Europe

Alex Scott, Europe is poised to begin lithium mining,

Renewable Energy

Rare earth elements post challenge in clean energy transition

International Energy Agency, “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions,” World Energy Outlook Special Report,

European Commission, “Critical Raw Materials Resilience: Charting a Path towards greater Security and Sustainability,”

Dionne Searcey, Michael Forsythe and Eric Lipton, “A Power Struggle Over Cobalt Rattles the Clean Energy Revolution

International Energy Agency, “Clean energy demand for critical minerals set to soar as the world pursues net zero goals,

Rare earths, the climate crisis, and tech-imperium

Not So “Green” Technology: The Complicated Legacy of Rare Earth Mining

Renewable Energy — Electric Cars

US Needs 10X More Rare Earth Metals To Hit Biden’s Electric Vehicle Goals

Like slave and master’: DRC miners toil for 30p an hour to fuel electric cars,

Tesla’s Nevada lithium plan faces stark obstacles on path to production,

Afghanistan

Chinese firms eye resumption of projects in Afghanistan amid power shift,” Global Times, August 17, 2021, .