Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke launched a push Tuesday to expand critical minerals production in the United States, saying “we are vulnerable as a nation” because we rely so heavily on imports from China.
The move comes as the U.S. Geological Survey published its first assessment of the country’s critical minerals resources since 1973, an analysis the agency began in 2013. The report concludes that 20 out of the 23 critical minerals the nation relies on are sourced from China.
“It is time for the U.S. to take a leading position,” Zinke told reporters at a briefing. “And it’s not that we don’t have the minerals in the U.S. It’s likely we do.”
While the United States has significant deposits of most of the minerals it currently imports to produce everything from smartphones to weaponry, market considerations largely drive mining. The United States was ranked as the world’s largest producer of such minerals until 1995, but since then, China has led the globe.
Zinke and other Interior officials acknowledged that China has emerged as the world’s dominant critical minerals supplier because it sells these materials for less, and they did not specify how the United States would boost production given that price differential. In some instances, China has flooded the market with commodities at a low price and later raised it once their competitors are out of business.
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