January 12, 2021
As nations compete to lead the future of advanced energy, mineral...
A recent Foreign Policy Analytics’ Special Report reveals the far-reaching impacts of China’s controlling stake in global minerals production. According to the report, Chinese production of metals like cobalt, vanadium and graphite means it can single-handedly influence the supply of irreplaceable components found in everything from EVs, solar panels and wind turbines, to semiconductors, smartphones and satellites. The United States is home to a robust mining industry that has the potential to service global metal demands, if given the opportunity to do so.
For example, antinomy is a critical metal for various industrial and defense applications, but the vast majority currently comes from China. Midas Gold has proposed its Stibnite Gold Project, located northeast of Cascade, Idaho, and, once approved, would be capable of providing America’s only domestic source of antinomy. Despite the clear need for such a domestic source, the project has been under review by federal, state and local agencies for over four years. To maintain America’s competitiveness and leadership in tech, computing, AI and energy, a policy shift will be necessary to encourage domestic mining and address the alarming dependence on foreign supplies.
America’s import reliance for minerals and metals has nearly doubled over the past two decades leaving the backbone of supply chains out of U.S. control. The future is more metals intensive than the past, as communications, transportation and energy infrastructure are changing alongside emerging technologies that require massive minerals inputs. By neglecting the strategic importance of cultivating a domestic supply of natural resources, our country has witnessed the emergence of national security vulnerabilities while foreign nations continue to gain leverage over key markets.
The United States is 100 percent import reliant for 17 key mineral resources and more than 50 percent import reliant for an additional 29. As the United States works to rebuild in the wake of economic turmoil spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers should first prioritize the stability of supply chains.
U.S. concern over rising mineral imports, and increasing reliance on China, is shared in Europe. The European Commission recently released a report warning that Europe’s overreliance on imports of critical raw materials threatens to undermine essential industries and expose member states to potential supply chain disruptions. “The pandemic has revealed Europe’s dependencies in certain products, critical materials and value chains,” said Thierry Breton, EU industry commissioner. “The era of a conciliatory or naive Europe that relies on others to look after its interests is over.”
America must secure its mineral supply chains in order to compete with foreign producers like China, who now control key aspects of minerals production and refining. Competition for the industries of tomorrow – from robotics to electric vehicles and semiconductors – requires the revitalization of mineral policy.
With a rejuvenated mineral policy that encourages domestic production instead of furthering the import reliance, the U.S. can reduce this alarming import dependency and protect its bright future.