In yet another warning shot, China recently announced export controls for gallium and germanium, two critical minerals the U.S. relies on for microchips, weapon systems, electric vehicle (EV) car batteries and other vital technology. It’s the latest demonstration of China’s willingness to use mineral supply chains as geopolitical weapons; an example of China’s retaliatory capacity after recent attempts by the U.S. and its allies to reduce China’s stranglehold on global mineral supply chains.
It’s a real-life chess match and China started playing long before the U.S. and its allies realized the importance of the game. Through lopsided infrastructure-for-minerals agreements with African nations and methodical investments across the globe, China now dominates the extraction, refining and processing of numerous minerals – representing our country’s leading supplier of 30 critical minerals. What we are left with is a gaping hole in our industrial policy where regardless of how many domestic battery megafactories we open, we lack reliable sources of the base mineral inputs that supply them. Put simply, there isn’t modern technology that can be built without China.
So where do we go from here?
Without more domestic mineral projects, it will be nearly impossible to surpass China’s industrial supply chain which is now decades ahead of the West. Instead of streamlining domestic mining reviews and permitting, the Biden administration recently announced 15 allied mineral trade agreements, including proposals to allow allies such as Australia to be designated as domestic suppliers. Partnering with allies is important, but as China’s recent actions show, domestic mining should be our priority, not an afterthought.
NMA President and CEO