US ‘Heavily Dependent’ on China for Rare Earth Elements: Experts

The United States’ dependency on China for rare earth elements is a security risk, according to lawmakers and experts, and is being exacerbated by the Biden administration’s forced transition to so-called “green” technologies.

The Biden administration’s top-down push toward renewables requires an enormous growth in the mining of rare earth elements. Currently, the United States relies on the mining and processing powers of China, which has far worse environmental regulations, to achieve many of its needs.

“We’re heavily dependent on foreign adversarial nations,” said Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) during an Aug. 22 interview with NTD, an affiliate media outlet of The Epoch Times.

“If today, the communist country of China stopped selling us their critical and rare earth minerals, we would be in deep trouble from our national defense to our manufacturing across the globe.”

Rare earth elements are a number of elements with unique characteristics, which have made them vital to new technologies. Critical minerals are those rare earth elements that have no substitute, are limited in supply, or are economically vital.

Stauber’s comments came just weeks after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the United States would try to end its “undue dependence” on rare earths, which it requires to manufacture various technologies from solar panels to electric vehicle batteries to smartphones.

“It’s unfortunate that this administration has put their dependency for both critical minerals and rare earth minerals in the hands of the communist country of China,” Stauber said.

“It’s simply unacceptable when we are we have the critical minerals and a few of the rare earths right here in the United States. This administration just won’t let us mine.”

US-RAREEARTHS
Wheel loaders fill trucks with ore at the MP Materials rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, Calif., on Jan. 30, 2020. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

According to Stauber, the Biden administration lacks the political will to simply mine the needed elements domestically. For example, nickel, copper, and cobalt are all present at extant mining operations in Minnesota. Instead of allowing American companies to mine these, however, the administration is pursuing a policy of “friendshoring,” wherein it merely transfers supply chains for offshored goods from China to more friendly nations such as South Korea.

“We have the best environmental standards, best labor standards, and the opportunity to secure our supply chain dependency and put the destiny of our great nation in the palm of our own hands,” Stauber said.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We must have an administration that understands the importance of securing our critical minerals and our rare earth minerals. We have to return this country, the United States of America, to mining and mineral dominance. And we can do that, if we have the political will.”

China Weaponizing Rare Earths

Ann Bridges, a Silicon Valley author and policy adviser at the Heartland Institute, said that the fear of China weaponizing its growing power of rare and critical elements was not without precedent.

“In 2010, Japan and China actually had a conflict over rare earths,” Bridges told NTD. “China responded by cutting off Japan’s access to the rare earths which really had an impact on Japan’s manufacturing capabilities.”

“So it is not outside of the scope of the imagination to believe that in a time of warfare, indeed, China would leverage this kind of power.”

China is the largest global player in many critical minerals, for which demand is currently skyrocketing due to technological development. To that end, Bridges warned that the administration’s top-down push for electric vehicles and other global climate initiatives could ultimately threaten U.S. security if not more carefully conducted.

“The current administration is all about climate, right, saving the environment?” Bridges said. “A big part of that is the push into electric vehicles, but that needs a lot of rare earth minerals and elements. And then suddenly, it’s like, well, where are we getting that? China?”

“We need to be very careful about how we accept kind of a single worldview, whether it’s coming from communist China, whether it’s coming from the World Economic Forum.”

Andrew Thornebrooke

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Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master’s in military history from Norwich University.

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