(Bloomberg) — The U.S. is deploying drones and other technology as it scours for potential rare-earths reserves at home and abroad to wean the nation off its dependence on Chinese imports.
“We’ve been almost 100% dependent on foreign sources of rare earth elements for industrial applications,” Jim Reilly, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, said.
“It’s not only the domestic sources of the resource that we concentrate on. We look for those resources literally across the globe, and then we build collaboration with our partners.”
China supplied about 80% of U.S. imports of the minerals used to make missiles, cellphones and wind turbines in the three years ended 2018. That leaves American companies that use rare earths vulnerable to supply shocks as a coronavirus outbreak in the Asian nation disrupts deliveries.
At the height of the trade war between Beijing and Washington, concerns were raised that China may weaponized the critical minerals, cutting supply to the U.S. While the signing of a phase-one deal eased tensions, the Trump administration remains determined to boost domestic output and seek alternative suppliers.
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