#Forbes: It Might Take A Long Time For The U.S. To Become Self-Sufficient In Rare Earth Materials

Once again the U.S. is faced with the potential of restricted access to rare earth elements. The President ordered a supply chain review examining U.S. reliance on overseas sources for semiconductors, rare earth elements, batteries, and pharmaceuticals. China is the global leader in mining, refining, and component manufacturing of products that use rare earth elements, so in the face of escalating tensions between the two countries, many U.S. manufacturers might be vulnerable.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. led the world in research on rare earths, but by the 1980s funding for the chemistry, separation technology, and processing was reduced. Low-pricing from China made U.S. mining and processing uncompetitive, and the Mountain Pass mine was closed in the 1990s, only to be reopened in 2013 after China restricted supplies.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. led the world in research on rare earths, but by the 1980s funding for the chemistry, separation technology, and processing was reduced. Low-pricing from China made U.S. mining and processing uncompetitive, and the Mountain Pass mine was closed in the 1990s, only to be reopened in 2013 after China restricted supplies.

The biggest challenge, as always, is economics. In the past when the U.S. (and Japan) faced threats to the supply of rare earth minerals, there was a rush to develop alternatives. But once the threat passed and prices from China dropped, alternative sources lost their appeal. That is also the case now. The real question is whether domestic sources will be economically sustainable over time.

Could the U.S. become self-sufficient again?

Read more at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/willyshih/2021/02/24/it-might-take-a-long-time-for-the-us-to-become-self-sufficient-in-rare-earth-materials/?sh=57b3273f192d

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