“Each F-35 fighter, for instance, needs 920 pounds of rare earths;
each Virginia-class nuclear submarine requires 9,200 pounds. Tomahawk missiles, guidance systems, and jet engines all need different combinations of alloys and specialized products using some of the 17 different rare-earth elements.”
Rising tensions with China and the race to repatriate supply chains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have given fresh impetus to U.S. efforts to launch a renaissance in rare earths, the critical minerals at the heart of high technology, clean energy, and especially high-end U.S. defense platforms.
But it’s not going well, despite a slew of new bills and government initiatives aimed at rebuilding a soup-to-nuts rare-earth supply chain in the United States that would, after decades of growing reliance on China and other foreign suppliers, restore U.S. self-reliance in a vital sector.
“I think the light bulb has gone on, but we are still in a muddle about exactly what to do about it,” said David Hammond, an expert on rare earths at Hammond International Group, a consultancy.
The problem is that, despite years of steadily increasing efforts under the Trump administration, the United States—both the public and private sectors—has yet to figure out how to redress the fundamental vulnerabilities in its critical materials supply chain, and America still seems years away from developing the full gamut of rare-earth mining, processing, and refining capabilities it needs if it seeks to wean itself off foreign suppliers.
This month, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz became the latest lawmaker to introduce legislation meant to jump-start a domestic rare-earth industry by offering juicy tax breaks for new projects—and especially large tax incentives for end consumers who source finished products from American suppliers.
For the rest of this article: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/25/china-trump-trade-supply-chain-rare-earth-minerals-mining-pandemic-tensions/