MOUNTAIN PASS, Calif. (Reuters) – The United States wants to curb its reliance on China for specialized minerals used to make weapons and high-tech equipment, but it faces a Catch-22.
It only has one rare earths mine – and government scientists have been told not to work with it because of its Chinese ties. The mine is southern California’s Mountain Pass, home to the world’s eighth-largest reserves of the rare earths used in missiles, fighter jets, night-vision goggles and other devices.
But the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has told government scientists not to collaborate with the mine’s owner, MP Materials, the DOE’s Critical Materials Institute told Reuters.
This is because MP Materials is almost a tenth-owned by a Chinese investor and relies heavily on Chinese sales and technical know-how, according to the company.
“Clearly, the MP Materials ownership structure is an issue,” said Tom Lograsso, interim director of the institute, the focal point of the U.S. government’s rare earths research and a facility that typically works closely with private industry.