The head of an advanced-materials manufacturer said he met with President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, on Monday to persuade him that the U.S. should nationalize the country’s only mine of rare earth minerals, which are used in military applications.
“The staff understood the urgency of the matter,” Michael Silver, chief executive officer of closely held American Elements Corp., said in a phone interview after his White House meeting, which he said was also attended by presidential deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
The rare-earth mining operations in Mountain Pass, California, the last remaining assets of bankrupt Molycorp Inc., were bought in June by a group that drew objections from rival bidders, who said the winner has ties to the Chinese government.
The mine should be converted to a national laboratory “dedicated to rebuilding America’s rare-earth mining industry so the world knows it is safe to build high-tech manufacturing plants in the U.S.,” Silver said.
The production of rare-earth minerals — used in applications from hybrid electric cars to iPhones and military hardware such as night-vision goggles and guided weapons — is dominated by low-cost Chinese companies. Molycorp Minerals and its parent, Molycorp Inc., filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after prices for the minerals fell below the mine’s costs to produce them.
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