The U.S. Strategic Minerals Situation Is Critical – by Christina Lu (Foreign Policy – June 30, 2023)


Desperate to diversify away from Beijing, Washington is ramping up efforts to jump-start its struggling domestic industry.

Washington’s focus on plugging strategic vulnerabilities amid worsening U.S.-China relations has also reignited U.S. efforts to control crucial, yet often overlooked, materials: critical minerals. It’s not just rare earths, with all their applications for clean energy and fast jets: Entire forests have been felled with legislation meant to jump-start the U.S. foray into rare earths, to little avail so far.

The critical minerals race is about simpler things such as cobalt, nickel, copper, and, according to the U.S. Defense Department, about two dozen other key ingredients for everything needed to make the country safer, cleaner, and more prosperous. The problem is where to get them all.

After a decades-long push, China has already carved out a commanding lead in mining, refining, and processing many of these inputs—placing it in a dominant position that has rattled the United States and stoked fears of supply chain bottlenecks.

“Quite frankly, we’re in a vulnerable position,” John Podesta, a top White House advisor on clean energy, warned last month. China “has the potential to use its lock on supply chains to hold politically hostage decisions by governments.”

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