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U.S. Dependent on China for Rare Earth Minerals

U.S. Dependent on China for Rare Earth Minerals thumbnail
An overlooked report has revealed the United States is completely reliant on imports from foreign countries, most heavily China, for rare earth minerals critical to our national security.

The report, released by the United States Geological Survey, stated the United States is 100% dependent on foreign imports for at least 20 elements and minerals, including 17 classified as rare earth minerals critical to the development of high-grade magnets used in aircraft and missile systems.

In addition to the use in military hardware, many rare earth minerals are critical for the development of GPS systems, satellite imaging, night vision goggles, and consumer products like smartphones and flat-screen televisions.

One country has a near monopoly over exporting rare earth minerals to the United States: China.

According to the report, the United States is 100% reliant on foreign countries (most notably the African nations of Gabon and South Africa) for the mineral manganese, which is used to make impact resistant steel.

Despite being readily available from mines in Arizona, Arkansas, and Minnesota, manganese can be imported more cheaply. There has been no domestic production of manganese since 1970.

“That 2017 USGS report is not fake news,” said George Byers, a 40-year veteran of the mining industry and an expert on rare earth minerals. “You have 29 or 30 studies on critical materials, including rare earths that go back to the early ‘90s. The outcome of each study is to declare ‘we have a crisis, let’s do something about it.’ But all they do about it, is to ask for another study.”

Molycorp, the only significant domestic producer of rare earth metals, went bankrupt in 2015 following a decision by the Obama administration to not bail it out of its $1.4 billion debt.

A Swiss investment firm linked to Vladimir Iorich, a Russian-born billionaire with German nationality, is reportedly attempting to purchase the Mountain Pass mine in California, the largest domestic source of rare earths once operated by Molycorp.

The trend of outsourcing control over rare earth minerals reached its peak in 1995, when the Clinton administration allowed two major domestic rare earth producers located in North Carolina and Indiana to go out of business and transferred their production capacity to China.

General Motors sold Magnequench, a company that used rare earth minerals to manufacture magnets critical for military weapons systems, in 1995 to a group of investors including the Soros Fund Management and two Chinese firms; five years later, the company opened a new plant in Tianjin, China.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of has expressed plans to introduce a bill later this month to require the military to obtain rare earth minerals that are produced exclusively in the United States, even if it requires subsidizing companies involved in mining them.

“This is of critical importance to our national security and ability to stay ahead of everyone else,” he told Fox News. “Rare earth metals are crucial. We’ve closed down mines in my own state of California, which is the leading edge of stupid.”

“We need to have our own rare earths. The big sticking part of the bill is this. You have to put money in to subsidize our own product to create a market, because now there’s no market. We’ve got to put American manufacturing back in competition.”

Hunter’s bill would divert funds from developing aircraft and missile systems to supporting the domestic production of rare earth minerals. It would also provide five-year interest free loans to domestic producers, allowing them the opportunity to redevelop long-neglected facilities.

The threat of China cutting off the world’s supply of rare earth minerals is real.

“Absolutely, China could cut off the supply,” said Jeff Green, a defense industry analyst. “Processing rare earths is the end of the hose. China controls the spigot the hose is attached to.”


17 Comments on "U.S. Dependent on China for Rare Earth Minerals"

  1. penury on Mon, 13th Feb 2017 8:41 pm 

    My memory may be faulty, but I seem to remember much angst about “Rare Earths” in about 2005, It was finally deceided that “Rare” does not mean short supply because there are enormous quantities available in the U.S. and Afganistan(?) and the discussions stopped and this is the first i have seen since.

  2. makati1 on Mon, 13th Feb 2017 8:43 pm 

    “The threat of China cutting off the world’s supply of rare earth minerals is real.”

    I’ve been saying that for the last year or so and being poo pooed by the ignorant. Americans, you better check on what your country imports and from where. You will be shocked. (Don’t forget that most of the parts come from another country (Asia), even if the final product is labeled: “Made in the USA”.)

  3. Anonymous on Mon, 13th Feb 2017 9:49 pm 

    Infowarz, lol. Yeah, the situation is indeed dire. The uS has to import 100% of certain minerals from China needed to build weapons systems. Once the uS imports the rare-earths and turns them into weapons, what the uS do with those weapons?

    Threaten China with them of course, duh!

  4. makati1 on Mon, 13th Feb 2017 10:31 pm 

    And, it buys it’s rocket engines from … Russia and threatens it with war. Insanity.

  5. kiwichick on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 12:52 am 

    the author needs to do some more research

  6. DerHundistlos on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 1:00 am 


    The first endangered designation for a bee species in the continental U.S. was due to take place for the critically endangered Rusty Patched bumble bee (also, a national survey revealed that between 04/2015 and 04/2016 44% of honey bee hives were lost) until the Trump administration refused protection.

  7. Midnight Oil on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 3:42 am 

    US would be shoeless without China and barea@$
    Also..nearly dependent for basic necessities.
    And these folks are worried about rare earth
    Crap…how about air conditioners!

  8. Antius on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 4:00 am 

    I don’t like to quote the scum bag UK media any more than I have to. But take a look at this:

    Nature has provided us with a solution.

  9. Cloggie on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 4:52 am 

    Nature has provided us with a solution.


    If the $3.5T projectile would rain down in small pieces in the Arizona desert, it would solve Washington’s budget problem’s in one stroke.

    If it would crash into Washington in one piece, it would solve Washington’s budget’s problems for all ages.

  10. Antius on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 5:10 am 

    OK Clog, point taken. Getting to the stuff, mining it and transporting it back to Earth isn’t straight forward. But the technologies are there. SpaceX have succeeded in reducing launch costs by an order of magnitude. It really is just a case of making a concerted effort now. And it might just get us out of the peak-everything hell hole.

  11. joe on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 5:36 am 

    I presume they are rare cause theres not much profit. Since governments seems to be the only ones looking for this stuff and in small amounts. If they are rare cause theres just none, then we will probably think of other ways to murder each other. China can get these metals etc cause they are commies and government can shoulder the cost and sell what it does not use to others thus covering the outlay. I think that in a pinch the US continent can supply such metals.

  12. Davy on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 5:58 am 

    Typical anti-American rants above but the story is more subtle. Both China and the US will be impacted seriously with trade adjustments over 15%. At that point the economics becomes difficult in our modern era of tight margins. China will clearly be impacted worse through factory slowdowns and unemployment in an economy already suffering excess capacity. I imagine Trump will succeed in lowering some of these imbalances but significant reductions will be painful for everyone and difficult to imagine Trump pursuing. In the end Trump is a pussy on economic decline which trade wars represent but again he is one unpredictable SOB so who knows. We cannot forget the financial results of a trade war with China’s US treasury position and dollar reserve currency status. These will be deeply impacted. Both sides can ill afford this.

    Almost half of the US/China trade is consumer goods and automobile parts $225. This is the stuff the US need to wring from globalism and bring home or eliminate in my opinion. Close down half the awful Walmart’s. Well, I am a doomer but the reality of the disruptions are inflation and job loss on both sides. These goods are relatively easy to produce and could quickly be manufactured at home but with accompanying inflation. The big point is we don’t need many of these things. There are enough consumer goods and autos running around America to last two lifetimes.

    The reason these trades are important is global economics. Big business is organized on both sides to make money this way disrupting this will be expensive for all involved. Many of these Chinese goods are designed and engineered in the US. There is a significant amount of other higher value goods the Chinese make that would be harder to replace at the quantity used today because globalism has gutted the US economy. Still these items can be made up but on longer time frames. At $167BIl US exports are significant to the Chinese economy. Many of these imports are for the higher value manufacture and technical. Food is significant although the dollars are not.

    If trade adjustments go up to 30% like the border adjustment tax is calling for we are going to see big disruptions to the global economy because the two largest global players will be in a full trade war. I don’t see how Trump will pull much off except around the edges. He has an agenda of inconsistencies. You can’t have trade wars and economic growth. He may be planning a recession now through trade changes hoping the recovery comes around the election. The problem with this strategy is midterms will be a monster for the Republicans. Democrats are now fully mobilized in rabid hate and resentment.

    Trump is predictably unpredictable but what has been shaking out is social and political arrangements he has been dramatic in what he said he would do. Most predicted he who be a normal politician and not do what he said he would do, wrong. With trade he has yet to make any big changes. Mostly he has made threats. Mexico and China will likely be his focus. The others are allies making trade conflict more difficult. Trade is a zero sum game that Trump may choose to address in nationalistic trade battles with the understanding a recession will be the result and hope a recovery will result with Made-In-America. That is a fantasy because what will happen is a global recession Made-In-America. I am fine with that. I am a doomer and the best way to gut the evils of globalism is a Sino American trade war. Bring it on let destructive change loose.
    US: Capital goods except automotive $43.8, Industrial supplies and materials $38.8, Foods, feeds, and beverages $21.4, Travel services $21.1, Automotive vehicles, parts, and engines $13.7, Other goods and services $27.8
    China: Consumer goods except food and automotive $225.2, Capital goods except automotive $167.9, Industrial supplies and materials $45.4, Automotive vehicles, parts, and engines $18.8, Foods, feeds, and beverages $6.1, Other goods and services $19.2

  13. Nony on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 6:31 am 

    Oh not this crap again. I’ve been hearing the rare earth crisis since the 90s.

    They are not even especially rare. They are just hard to refine because lanthanides have such similar chemistry.

    The reason we buy from China is it is cheaper. If they raise the price too high or just withhold supply outright, other sources will become economic.

    Yawn, yawn, yawn.

  14. Rockman on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 10:43 am 

    Nony – More to the point: two of the largest trading economies on the planet need each other. It’s called “doing business…they’ll work it out.

  15. energy investor on Tue, 14th Feb 2017 4:00 pm 

    kiwichick is on the money.

    The problem is not whether rare earths can be produced in countries friendly to USA or within the USA – or not. It is a question of price. China won the entire industry (almost) by cutting the guts out of price and then having no safety or environmental standards for what is a fairly dirty extractive and processing business.

    The only two companies I would invest in (have in the past – and probably will again soon) are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. I don’t see the US’s Mountain Pass mine as being competitive. Both Aussies are fairly well established and both will likely be able to compete with Chinese suppliers at current prices. One has substantial Chinese shareholding.

  16. David Everist on Wed, 15th Feb 2017 9:35 am 

    I have ask President Trump to MAKE Mining Great Again and Miners Will MAKE America Greatest again and TO GRANT Charter for my company Twin Cedar Mining District LLC TO build LOCATEBLE RARE EARTH ELEMENTS AND STRATEGIC MINERALS RESERVE SIGN BY DAVID DUANE EVERIST SEC

  17. dooma on Thu, 16th Feb 2017 6:36 am 

    This news is as old as the hills (full of minerals).

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