World

US Bill would block defence contractors from using Chinese rare earths


WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – A bipartisan piece of legislation to be introduced in the US Senate on Friday (Jan 14) would force defence 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 US 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 US 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 US 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.

The United States has only one rare earths mine and has no capability to process rare earth minerals.

“Ending American dependence on China for rare earths extraction and processing is critical to building up the US defence and technology sectors,” Cotton told Reuters.

The senator, who sits on the Senate’s Armed Forces and Intelligence committees, described China’s evolution into the global rare earths leader as “simply a policy choice that the United States made,” adding that he hoped fresh policies would loosen Beijing’s grip.

See also  One reporter, witness to two executions, haunting last words

Known as the Restoring Essential Energy and Security Holdings Onshore for Rare Earths Act of 2022, the Bill would codify and make permanent the Pentagon’s ongoing stockpiling of the materials. China temporarily blocked rare earth exports to Japan in 2010 and has issued vague threats it could do the same to the United States.

To build that reserve, though, the Pentagon buys supply in part from China, a paradox that Senate staffers hope will abate in time.

The rare earths production process can be highly pollutive, part of the reason why it grew unpopular in the United States.

Ongoing research is attempting to make the process cleaner.

Cotton said he has talked to various US executive agencies about the Bill, but declined to say if he had talked with President Joe Biden or the White House.

“This is an area in which Congress will lead, because many members have been concerned about this very topic, regardless of party,” he said.



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply