Dr. Ned Mamula is a geoscientist and associate fellow at the nonprofit R Street Institute in Washington, D.C. Brig. Gen. John Adams (U.S. Army, retired) is the president of Guardian Six Consulting, based in Gulf Breeze, Florida and Washington, D.C.
China is by far the world’s leading producer and exporter of minerals and metals. The nation also is proving increasingly expert at using its mineral resources to influence geopolitics. Even those minerals and metals that are mined outside China find their way there via the world’s most sophisticated supply-chain networks – all according to the design of Beijing’s leaders.
By contrast, the United States is 100 percent import-reliant on more than 20 key minerals and metals essential both to a healthy economy and our national security. Most of these are partially, if not totally supplied by China, which enjoys near complete market power over the all-important rare earth parts industry.
Rare earth elements (REEs) are essential components of modern, high-tech electronic equipment. Notably, REEs enable the high-tech magnets used in everything from iPhones to joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs), from the white-noise-concealment stealth technology used for helicopter rotors to ship and aircraft motors.
REEs are found in every computer, flat screen, guidance system, directed energy weapon and laser, among many more critical technologies. In short, REEs are indispensable to our economy and national defense.
China’s monopoly of the global REE market should be no surprise. Almost 30 years ago, Deng Xiaoping boldly stated, “The Middle East has its oil, China has rare earth.” From then until now, China steadily has increased its rare earth dominance to roughly 97 percent of the market, using a combination of overproduction and price manipulation to drive out competitors. Because Western scientific efforts have thus far failed to develop new reliable, cost-effective REE substitutes, companies that need access tend to relocate to China.
For the rest of this article: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/international-affairs/344189-a-rare-earth-cooperative-for-critical-minerals-could