Courtney Young is a Lewis S. Prater Distinguished Professor and the department head of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at Montana Tech.
Our country has a great abundance of mineral resources used to manufacture goods of all kinds. For weapons systems and consumer electronics, the value alone is estimated at $6.2 trillion; however, because cumbersome regulations and permitting processes hamper mining, we now rely on foreign suppliers for more than half of our needs.
The situation has become so dire that various government agencies assessed our supply and demand of minerals and metals and labeled many as critical materials.
The largest share is minerals imported from China or from mines elsewhere in the world that are owned by Chinese companies. For instance, we rely on China for over 96 percent of rare earth minerals that are needed in the production of military items such as night-vision goggles, advanced radar and electronic warfare systems, and precision-guided weapons.
As for the common person, we find them in cell phones, televisions, computers, hybrid vehicles, pollution controllers, motors and generators (i.e., all are devices that are the very soul of our ability to communicate and fight climate change).
This dependence on China is troubling because it poses a threat to our national security and raises the specter of disruptions in goods, particularly military items, explaining their criticality!