Republican and Democratic Senators Team Up To End China’s Chokehold On Minerals

One Republican and one Democratic senator teamed up and introduced legislation Friday aimed at ending the U.S. reliance on rare-earth metals coming from China.

The Restoring Essential Energy and Security Holdings Onshore for Rare Earths (REEShore) Act would put a halt to supply disruptions and bolster domestic production of the minerals, according to Sens. Tom Cotton and Mark Kelly, the bill’s sponsors. They cite the legislation as being important for American national security and the development of advanced technologies.

“The Chinese Communist Party has a chokehold on global rare-earth element supplies, which are used in everything from batteries to fighter jets,” Cotton said in a statement. “Ending America’s dependence on the CCP for extraction and processing of these elements is critical to winning the strategic competition against China and protecting our national security.”

The REEShore Act would allow the Department of Defense and Department of the Interior to stockpile rare-earth metals by 2025, according to the announcement. The Department of Energy controls a strategic reserve of crude oil, which took effect in the 1970s.

The legislation would also require disclosure of the origin of all rare-earth metals used for defense technology. Developers would be banned from using Chinese rare-earths for defense equipment under the bill.

“As a 25-year Navy veteran who served in the South China Sea, I know just how critical it is to invest in our nation’s defense and technology capabilities,” Kelly said. “Our bipartisan bill will strengthen America’s position as a global leader in technology by reducing our country’s reliance on adversaries like China for rare earth elements.”

China controls about 55% of the world’s rare-earth mining capacity and 85% of global mineral refining, according to a White House supply chain report published in June. The U.S. produced only 12% of rare-earth metals, according to a 2019.

Climate activists and many Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. have been in favor of restrictions on domestic mining, citing the importance of protecting the environment.

Rare-earth elements such as yttrium, lanthanum, thulium, and holmium, are used in over 200 high-tech products including cell phones, electric vehicles, radar and sonar systems, X-ray machines, guidance systems, and lasers, a U.S. Geological Survey release noted.

On Thursday, the Congressional Western Caucus and House Natural Resources Republicans hosted a roundtable on the significance of U.S. mining policy. Several House Republicans and business leaders explained the importance of strengthening the American mining industry.

“As global demand is growing to meet the needs of technological development, especially with minerals needed for alternative sources of energy, it’s time we start responsibly sourcing them here in the United States instead of relying on foreign, and often hostile, nations for them,” said Republican Minnesota Rep. Pete Stauber, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

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