(Reuters) – The Pentagon is rapidly assessing the United States’ rare earths capability in a race to secure stable supply of the specialized material amid the country’s trade conflict with China, which controls the rare earths industry, according to a government document seen by Reuters.
The push comes weeks after China threatened to curb exports to the United States of rare earths, a group of 17 minerals used to build fighter jets, tanks and a range of consumer electronics.
The Pentagon wants miners to describe plans to develop U.S. rare earths mines and processing facilities, and asked manufacturers to detail their needs for the minerals, according to the document, which is dated June 27.
Responses are required by July 31, a short time frame that underscores the Pentagon’s urgency. The U.S. government’s fiscal year ends in September. The U.S. Air Force, which is part of the Pentagon and created the document, confirmed the document’s existence. The Pentagon’s headquarters did not respond to a request for comment.
The responses will be reviewed by two government contractors, including Northrop Grumman Corp, which did not respond to requests for comment. “The government wants to know how much of these minerals we could eventually be producing, and how soon,” said Anthony Marchese, chairman of Texas Mineral Resources Corp, which is working to develop the Round Top rare earth deposit in the state’s western edge.