#UK #Reuters: #US finds its #Chinese rare earth dependency hard to break
The U.S. Department of Defense has just committed funding for two rare earth separation plants on U.S. soil.
It’s one small step towards the Trump administration’s stated goal of breaking the country’s dependence on Chinese supplies of critical minerals.
But the direct involvement of the Pentagon underlines the scale of the task associated with creating from scratch a non-Chinese rare earths supply chain.
The United States was almost totally dependent on imports of rare earth compounds and metals last year, just as it was the year before and the year before that. China remained the largest supplier to the tune of around 80% of all imports, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
That reliance on China for minerals with critical uses across a wide spectrum of civilian and military applications is becoming ever more problematic as Sino-U.S. relations deteriorate.
However, to break it, as the United States is finding out, requires a mix of direct government support, alliances with like-minded countries, and a long-term focus on the six-stage process chain from ore to rare earth magnet.