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New Strategy for Strategic Minerals

If you care about American military superiority, cutting-edge technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines or U.S. leadership in other advanced technologies, there’s a big problem. The United States depends on imported critical minerals for more than half of our supply of 35 rare-earth minerals, says the U.S. Geological Survey. And China controls more than 90 percent of the global supply of essential minerals.

This problem of China having us over a barrel on strategic minerals, threatening our national and economic security, hasn’t escaped the Trump administration. The administration has put together an action plan to address this important matter. Conservatives support this effort.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comments on an environmental impact statement. The EIS relates to a possible permit for a proposed strategic minerals project in Alaska. This process puts the proposal back on track after Obama’s EPA shut down the idea before the agency had even received an application. (To comment by June 29, click here.)

The proposed Pebble Mine project would leverage property rights for extraction of strategic minerals from public lands. The Congressional Western Caucus favors granting the permit.

There’s a hiccup. The U.S. House narrowly adopted an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations measure, H.R. 2740, to block the Corps from granting a permit for Pebble Mine. The Huffman amendment would lock up natural resources we desperately need for relieving our dependence on China’s beneficence and to ensure our industrial competitiveness and national security.

Some good news: A Texas chemical company is teaming up with the second-largest rare-earths producer to build a new rare-earths separation facility in the Lone Star State.

And Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar has observed that “rare earth” minerals aren’t rare in fact. In Arizona, strategic mineral-rich rocks cover the desert. After a meeting with Congressman Gosar, an op-ed reported:

“In Congressman Gosar's office, the only thing really remarkable about the ‘rare earth’ rock is that it isn't rare at all. The term ‘rare earth’ is a misnomer, applied to 17 specific minerals because they were once considered difficult to extract from the surrounding rock in which they are found. But supplies abound worldwide, including all across the U.S., where our known reserves are at least 10 times the entire world's production.”

Strategic minerals are critical to America’s future. There’s no excuse for not using our own resources and relying on aggressors — especially since these natural resources are plentiful right here. As Conservatives for Property Rights’ principles note, “public land usually best serves the public when its resources are put to productive use by private-sector entities.”

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