Jan 14 (Reuters) – A bipartisan piece of legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate on Friday would force defense contractors to stop buying rare earths from China by 2026 and use the Pentagon to create a permanent stockpile of the strategic minerals.
The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat, is the latest in a string of U.S. legislation seeking to thwart China’s near control over the sector.
It essentially uses the Pentagon’s purchase of billions of dollars worth of fighter jets, missiles and other weapons as leverage to require contractors to stop relying on China and, by extension, support the revival of U.S. rare earths production.
Rare earths are a group of 17 metals that, after processing, are used to make magnets found in electric vehicles, weaponry and electronics. While the United States created the industry in World War Two and U.S. military scientists developed the most widely-used type of rare earth magnet, China has slowly grown to control the entire sector the past 30 years.