ALASKA TO BENEFIT FROM MINING RENAISSANCE
President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order, declaring a national emergency over the country’s over reliance on minerals from countries that are considered adversaries.
Trump said that the supply of critical minerals are vulnerable to disruption because out national security relies on foreign adversaries for these raw materials.
His order calls for the Secretary of the Interior to identify critical minerals and throughout all relevant agencies he has made it the policy of the United States to “reduce the Nation’s vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals.”
Alaska has rich repositories of minerals, including many rare earth minerals needed by the military and communications sectors. The state of Alaska and job seekers stand to benefit from the president’s order.
The Department of Interior will, according to the order, conduct a review of the 35 minerals that are essential to the “economic and national security of the United States.”
“These critical minerals are necessary inputs for the products our military, national infrastructure, and economy depend on the most. Our country needs critical minerals to make airplanes, computers, cell phones, electricity generation and transmission systems, and advanced electronics,” Trump wrote in his executive order.
America lacks the capacity to produce the majority of minerals needed in the quantities the country needs, he said. Instead, American producers depend on foreign countries to not only supply but process them.
“For 31 of the 35 critical minerals, the United States imports more than half of its annual consumption. The United States has no domestic production for 14 of the critical minerals and is completely dependent on imports to supply its demand,” he wrote.
Trump specifically called out the People’s Republic of China, saying the U.S. imports 80 percent of its rare earth elements directly from China, with portions of the remainder indirectly sourced from China through other countries.
“In the 1980s, the United States produced more of these elements than any other country in the world, but China used aggressive economic practices to strategically flood the global market for rare earth elements and displace its competitors. Since gaining this advantage, China has exploited its position in the rare earth elements market by coercing industries that rely on these elements to locate their facilities, intellectual property, and technology in China. For instance, multiple companies were forced to add factory capacity in China after it suspended exports of processed rare earth elements to Japan in 2010, threatening that country’s industrial and defense sectors and
disrupting rare earth elements prices worldwide,” he wrote.
Barite is one of the minerals mentioned in the executive order. The U.S. imports over 75 percent of the barite it consumes, and over 50 percent of the nation’s barite comes from China.
The U.S. depends on foreign sources for 100 percent of its gallium, with China producing around 95 percent of the global supply. Gallium-based semiconductors are indispensable for cellphones, blue and violet light-emitting diodes (LEDs), diode lasers, and fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications, Trump wrote.
“Like for gallium, the United States is 100 percent reliant on imports for graphite, which is used to make advanced batteries for cellphones, laptops, and hybrid and electric cars. China produces over 60 percent of the world’s graphite and almost all of the world’s production of high-purity graphite needed for rechargeable batteries,” he wrote.
“In addition, I find that the United States must broadly enhance its mining and processing capacity, including for minerals not identified as critical minerals and not included within the national emergency declared in this order. Mining and mineral processing provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans whose daily work allows our country and the world to ‘Buy American’ for critical technology,” Trump wrote.
The executive order comes with several target deadlines for agencies to respond and develop plans for increasing the domestic supply of minerals.