This plan for US critical minerals works around supply chain woes

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) took a clear step toward national and economic security with the recent introduction of the Restoring Essential Energy and Security Holdings Onshore for Rare Earths (REEShore) Act. 

Building stronger the U.S. government’s role in the critical mineral conversation, REEShore provides for the storage of rare earth elements and ensures oversight of industry sourcing, a comprehensive approach working to guard against supply chain disruptions.   

The critical minerals lexicon speaks to a group of 17 rare earth and others elements recognized as “critical” to national and economic security and their industry connection points, such as aerospace, telecommunications, defense and renewable energy. The elements make much of modern living possible — and are a prerequisite for future energy efficiency and technology goals.   

The legislation purposefully plans for these economic and environmental ambitions, meeting such with accountability for storage and sourcing. 

The act’s introduction is actually the third bell ring on critical mineral supply chain resiliency as a national interest, following executive orders from the Trump and Biden administrations, and this signal positions Congress to leverage “mandate” and “motivate” levers accordingly.   

The act first seeks a reinforced national stockpile, tasking the Departments of Interior and Defense to create a strategic reserve and add greater preparedness for military and other industrial sectors. Requirements for fact-checking minerals’ source of origin for defense-related elements will specifically assist supply chain mapping and identify potential vulnerabilities — as well as avenues to address such through allied partnerships.    

With the U.S. rare earth “pipeline” plainly dependent on China, national interests are exposed to just a singular disturbance. The effort, therefore, is unquestionably influenced by China’s primacy in this arena. After all, global mining, processing and investment reflect Chinese dominance, adding a variable to diplomacy and defense as well as economics.   

To maintain a fair, competitive posture in the great power competition, the legislation also includes a provision on investigating unfair trade practices by China — which would assumedly inform hypothetical future tariffs if ever necessary. Furthermore, REEShore would prohibit China-made materials in military systems where appropriate, plus would add country of origin reporting, which may eventually lean into identifying the origin of investments as well.  

The realities of the existing globalized market make a complete immediate decoupling from Chinese supply impractical. But moving toward resiliency is dependent upon options, and REEShore also provides an approach to strategic diversification, preparation and supply chain building.    

Washington should note that extraction and processing projects need years to finance and develop. But national security and strategic diplomacy — not to mention renewable energy, technology and infrastructure successes — rely on dependable mineral access. In response, the act also encourages concentrated industry support with deference to the White House for coordinating the functional components accommodating the industry’s growth. Practically, this support would find priority regulatory review, revised and extended loan guarantees and financing options, additional research and development awards, and expanded avenues for allied projects to access U.S. tools and resources.  

If passed, REEShore could see these advantages coordinated and applied to niche industry pockets developing across the country. Focused support could unlock “hub” potential in states such as Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia, where the combination of discovery and venture capital are working to scratch the surface of industry promise. The legislation represents the necessary push toward an intentional strategy with national importance, for state and federal leaders alike.   

Understanding the importance of rare earth element sourcing and accounting for possible disruption is imperative — and if passed, the U.S. will be afforded useful guidance to mitigate future supply chain pressure and ready greater economic growth.  

The REEShore Act proposes a sensible commitment to deliberate planning, and this effort by Cotton and Kelly represents a valuable and appropriate measure for national security, diplomacy and economic growth.  

Ned Rauch-Mannino is a consultant for commercial diplomacy matters. He previously served as the deputy assistant secretary for Global Operations and senior advisor for Global Markets with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Tags Chemical elements Mark Kelly Rare-earth element Tom Cotton

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video