Posted on March 27, 2015 by Minerals Make Life
This week, CBS News’ 60 Minutes featured a segment that detailed the importance of rare earth minerals to the United States’ growth and security, highlighting the critical need for U.S. mining legislation reform.
Rare earths, 17 rare elements housed within our Earth’s crust, are some of the world’s most sought after minerals because of their versatility and multiple functions, making them crucial to the manufacturing of everything from smart phones and medical technologies to advanced vehicles and green technology. Rare earths are also critical to the nation’s defense system. The magnetic properties of rare earths - and their ability to resist demagnetization at high temperatures – lend to military guidance systems and missiles’ necessary precision. In fact, the F35 fighter jet – the latest advancement in military technology – is made up of a half of a ton of rare earth minerals.
The United States, which was once self-sufficient in rare earth production, has become 100 percent reliant on rare earth imports, primarily because of an outdated and duplicative permitting process. And rare earths are just the tip of the iceberg. The United States is home to $6.2 trillion worth of key minerals and metals – like copper, gold, platinum, iron ore, potash and more -- but today less than half of the mineral needs of U.S. manufacturing are met from domestically mined minerals.
As manufacturers begin to re-shore their operations to the United States, a recent NMA survey reveals that not only are a large majority of U.S. manufacturing executives concerned about the issue of minerals and metals supply, but 91 percent are also concerned about supply disruptions outside of their control—citing geopolitics as the most pressing factor. Moreover, 80 percent of these executives stressed the importance of sourcing minerals and metals domestically, and 90 percent of them support limiting the permitting process to less than three years.
Fortunately, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) this week introduced the “American Mineral Security Act of 2015,” which will modernize the permitting system for U.S. mining to better position the United States as a global leader in innovation and manufacturing and boost our economy. Murkowski states,
“Minerals are critical to every aspect of our daily lives. We rely on them for everything we do and everything we make – from our smallest computer chips to our newest energy technologies to our most advanced defense systems. Despite this, as highlighted just this weekend by 60 Minutes, we are alarmingly dependent on foreign sources for dozens of minerals. Instead of ignoring this situation as it grows worse, my bill offers a chance to change course. It would improve our mineral security and protect our manufacturers for decades to come.”
Improving access to America’s great mineral wealth is an important priority for this Congress. Help Sen. Murkowski inform congress of the importance of streamlining the U.S. mining permitting process by taking action here.
To learn more about U.S.’ dependence on rare earths and other minerals, continue watching 60 Minutes here.