July 09, 2018
As the House and Senate convene on the National Defense Authoriza...
Access to minerals means a more secure America. Minerals are among the most important components in the technologies protecting our nation.
Access to minerals is crucial for a more secure America. Minerals are the basic components that make up the technologies protecting our nation.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Defense uses 750,000 tons of minerals like copper, beryllium, aluminum and uranium in an array of military functions from the obvious to the unseen. For instance, because of copper’s ability to resist corrosion, it is critical to the production of military vehicles like aircraft, army tanks and naval vessels. Beryllium, which is six times stronger than steel, yet lighter than aluminum, is often used to enhance the speed of fighter jets and is critical to U.S. surveillance technology, due to its ability to easily conduct heat. Additionally, aluminum is a key structural component in aircrafts thanks to its unique strength-to-weight ratio and anti-corrosive properties.
Moreover, minerals are critical to medical supply chains – used for technologies that treat wounded veterans, fight the spread of viruses and protect patients during life-saving procedures. For example, silver has been used in antibiotics since WWI and is an active ingredient in many medical products like antimicrobial bandages. In addition to its many industrial uses, copper is the only solid metal registered in 2008 by the EPA as an antimicrobial touch surface. Metals like uranium play a key role in X-rays and MRIs, while titanium is used to construct prosthetic limbs and stentrodes.
Even though the U.S. is home to an estimated $6.2 trillion of mineral resources, our inefficient mine permitting process hinders our ability to access and produce these minerals, forcing the U.S. to become increasingly import reliant. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS)’s 2023 Mineral Commodities Summary, the United States was more than 50 percent reliant on 51 minerals, up from 47 the year prior. The U.S. is also 100 percent net import reliant for 15 of those 51 minerals, 12 of which are deemed “critical” according to the USGS’ 2022 Final List of Critical Minerals. Not only does this foreign reliance increase our risk of supply disruptions, but it also threatens our country’s national defense capabilities.
According to a recent poll, 63 percent of voters support a modernized mine permitting process that would reduce the protracted delays impeding the Department of Defense’s access to U.S. mineral resource supply. To respond at a moment’s notice to threats from anywhere around the globe, we will need a steady supply chain of minerals to meet our defense needs. As such, we need our leaders to create policies that will enable the United States to be more self-reliant and less dependent on minerals from other countries.