U.S. Legislators call for action on minerals during Chinese VP visit

Posted on February 08, 2012 by Minerals Make Life

In advance of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to the White House next week, a group of lawmakers are urging President Obama to put Chinese export restrictions on rare earth minerals at the top of the agenda.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and nine other members of Congress sent a letter to the president last week stressing the importance of rare earths to the U.S. economy and national security. The legislators advised that delaying action to address the supply scarcity brought on by China’s market manipulation would leave American manufacturers and end-users hanging out to dry.

The letter highlights the risks America faces in its complete dependence on imports for rare earths—with 79 percent of those imports coming from China. In recent testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a USGS chief analyst revealed that increases in China’s own mineral consumption are likely to fuel further demand for rare earths, and that supply shortages could already be inhibiting the manufacturing of certain goods in the United States.

But the United States shouldn’t be looking to China to alleviate our mineral supply shortages—or support our economy, or bolster national security—not when 14 U.S. states have notable rare earth deposits. Furthermore, we shouldn’t be relying on $6.9 billion worth of mineral imports when the United States is home to $6.2 trillion worth of key minerals.

While pushing China to bring more minerals to market—a recommendation the Chinese could take or leave—the United States must heed its own advice: We must encourage our leaders to support policies that could increase production of domestic minerals.

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