The digital economy has advanced rapidly amidst the global pandemic. Across every sector of our nation’s economy – communications, transportation, energy, healthcare, manufacturing and national security – digital technologies are advancing new innovations and driving economic growth. Underpinning the digital economy are minerals – many of which are at the bottom of the periodic table and unnoticed for their importance. They advance medical innovations, enable data capture and processing at volumes never imagined, and are the building blocks of our nation’s defense. The last several months have highlighted the weaknesses in our supply chains, and the consequences of overreliance on foreign nations for our mineral needs. In the years to come, our international competitiveness and economic growth will depend on our ability to produce and refine the metals that are currently imported.
By neglecting the strategic importance of cultivating our own natural resources, America’s future leverage is diminishing. Countries like China have made large investments in the raw materials that are estimated to be the lynchpin of global markets in the decades to come including minerals such as lithium, cobalt, graphite and more. For China, the long-term national strategy includes not just controlling global minerals production but dominating the refining capacity needed to support future demand.
Other nations have experienced the supply shocks of COVID-19 and, eyeing China’s aggressive tactics, are actively working to secure the links of a larger industrial chain. As stated in Foreign Policy Analytics’ Mining the Future Special Report, “In just six years, China has come to dominate the global market: More than 59 percent of the world’s lithium resources are now under its control or influence.” The market for various other metals trends in this direction as well.
The analysis of current international markets is clear: This lopsided control of minerals markets will become increasingly damaging for the U.S. interests the longer it takes to confront what has become an elephant in the room in foreign policy talks.
With mining at the front end of nearly every supply chain, our policymakers can no longer push conversations about our mineral dependence to the backdrop of what’s topical in Washington. Our nation’s mining industry is involved in producing and refining a significant number of mineral resources, but we can and must do more. We must have an aggressive minerals policy focused on expanded production and refining to support America’s competitive advantage in computing, robotics and alternative energy. It’s time to reverse our decades long import reliance for minerals and secure our national defense, economic development, and innovation pipeline for science and technology.
Other nations have clear intentions to export high-tech goods and the American people are looking for their government to do the same. While our country has overcome tremendous issues during this pandemic and is looking to a full recovery, there has yet to be a consensus in Congress on how to do so. To boost America’s production and processing capacity, new policy is needed – our future pipeline of innovate technologies depends on it. Legislation such as the American Mineral Security Act (S.1317), National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (H.R.2531), Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act (H.R.4481) and American Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act (H.R.7061) all propose realistic pathways for providing this support. Our nation has the capacity and expertise to protect a prosperous future. Policymakers must acknowledge the situation in order for metals mining to once again become a staple of national output.
Learn more about the mineral supply chains that America needs to remain competitive.
NMA President and CEO