U.S. outlines critical mineral strategy
DOC publishes report mandated by Trump executive order
Last updated 6/14/2019 at 4:50am
The U.S. Department of Commerce June 4 released "A federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals," an interagency report that outlines a government-wide action plan to ensure the United States has secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.
Department of Commerce was charged with spearheading this report under Executive Order 13817, which was signed by President Donald Trump late in 2017.
Trump's critical minerals executive order instructed the secretaries of Interior and Defense to identify and publish a list of critical minerals, then develop a strategy to reduce the United States' reliance on other countries to supply these increasingly important ingredients to America's defensive and economic security.
Following the executive order, the U.S. Geological Survey laid out criteria for defining critical minerals and compiled a list of 35 minerals, metals and groups of elements considered critical to the U.S. under the definition.
Rare earth elements, cobalt, graphite, titanium and tungsten are among the commodities on the criticality list.
These and the other 30 minerals and metals on the list are necessary components for countless items relied on by millions of Americans, including smartphones, aircraft, computers, and GPS navigation systems, as well as green technologies such as wind turbines, energy efficient lighting and electric vehicles.
"These critical minerals are often overlooked but modern life without them would be impossible," said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
According to the Department of Commerce, the United States is dependent on imports for more than 50 percent of domestic demand for 29 of the 35 minerals named on the USGS critical list. In addition, the U.S. lacks any domestic production for 14 of the minerals and does not have domestic access to processing and manufacturing capabilities for many.
To rectify this, the Department of Commerce report includes recommendations to advance research and development efforts, increase domestic activity across the supply chain, streamline permitting and grow the American critical minerals workforce.
"Through the recommendations detailed in this report, the federal government will take unprecedented action to ensure that the United States will not be cut off from these vital materials," Ross said.
An outline of the strategy includes:
• Advance transformational research, development, and deployment across critical mineral supply chains – assess progress toward developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies, technological alternatives to critical minerals, source diversification, and improving processes for critical mineral extraction, separation, purification, and alloying.
• Strengthen America's critical mineral supply chains and defense industrial base – discuss ways to improve critical mineral supply chains, which could help reduce risks to U.S. supply by increasing domestic critical mineral resource development, building robust downstream manufacturing capabilities, and ensuring sufficient productive capacity.
• Enhance international trade and cooperation related to critical minerals – identify options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with America's allies, discuss areas for international collaboration and cooperation, and ensure robust enforcement of U.S. trade laws and international agreements that help address adverse impacts of market-distorting foreign trade conduct.
• Improve understanding of domestic critical mineral resources – provides a plan to improve and publicize the topographical, geological, geophysical, and bathymetrical mapping of the United States; support mineral information collection and analysis of commodity-specific mitigation strategies; focus and prioritize interagency efforts; and conduct critical mineral resource assessments to support domestic mineral exploration and development of conventional sources (minerals obtained directly through mining an ore), secondary sources (recycled materials, post-industrial, and post-consumer materials), and unconventional sources (minerals obtained from sources such as mine tailings, coal byproducts, extraction from seawater, and geothermal brines) of critical minerals.
• Improve access to domestic critical mineral resources on federal lands and reduce federal permitting timeframes – provide recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes related to developing mining claims or leases and enhancing access to domestic critical mineral resources.
• Grow the American critical minerals workforce – discuss the activities related to critical minerals needed to develop and maintain a strong domestic workforce to foster a robust domestic industrial base.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has long been pushing fellow legislators to pass critical minerals legislation, is encouraged by the strategy laid out in the Department of Commerce report.
"I welcome this report, which provides clear direction on how to reduce our reliance on foreign minerals and thereby strengthen our economy and national security," said Murkowski, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "I urge the administration to swiftly implement its recommendations, especially those that encourage domestic mineral production and continued research into processing technologies, and will continue my work to complement these efforts with new legislative authorities."
In May, Murkowski introduced the American Mineral Security Act, or S.1317, which lays out a comprehensive plan for fostering domestic production of minerals considered critical to the United States.
The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), aims to codify and build upon Executive Order 13817
"Our legislation requires common sense steps to begin restoring American independence regarding critical minerals and strengthen our national security, diversify our economy and create job opportunities in our communities," said Manchin, the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
More information on the American Mineral Security Act and other critical minerals legislation can be read at Addressing the critical mineral challenge in the May 17 edition of North of 60 Mining News.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Critical Minerals Alaska, published by North of 60 Mining News on May 31, provides detailed information on the uses and markets of most of the 35 minerals, metals and groups of elements considered critical to the economic wellbeing and security of the United States. This 84-page magazine is available at https://www.miningnewsnorth.com/store