America Has a Secret Switch to Make Military Metal – by Joe Deaux (Bloomberg News – June 7, 2017)

Seemingly with the flip of a switch, the U.S. could use an existing technology to produce all the specialized “high-purity” aluminum it needs for defense applications, according to researcher Harbor Intelligence.

In April, the Trump administration opened an investigation into whether an influx of foreign aluminum was a threat to national security. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at the time that part of the rationale for the probe was to investigate whether domestic manufacturers might be unable to meet the Pentagon’s needs in the event of a war.

U.S. producers would have to spend about $25 million to expand their capacity to meet the military’s needs for so-called high-purity aluminum through a process called fractional crystallization, Harbor Intelligence analyst Tom Leary said Wednesday in an interview. That technology removes impurities from the primary metal and turns it into its purer form, he said.

“If the Defense Department needed the 30,000 tons a year needed to consume, they could go greenfield for $25 million to produce it,’’ Leary said at the researcher’s industry conference in Chicago.

Harbor estimated that less than 1 percent of total U.S. aluminum production is consumed by the Defense Department.

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