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Army investing in rare earths production: report

Army investing in rare earths production: report
© JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

The United States Army plans to invest in the construction of rare earths processing facilities that can be used to produce military weapons and electronics, Reuters reports

In a government document viewed by the news agency, the Army asks mining companies for proposals on the cost of a pilot plant to produce "heavy rare earths" by Monday.

According to the document, the military branch will fund two-thirds of the cost and fund at least one project, potentially more, though the document didn't specify a monetary amount. 

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Earlier in the year, President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE ordered the military to update its rare earths supply chain. The U.S. hasn't invested in mass rare earths production since the Manhattan Project, which led to the creation of the first atomic bomb.

One reason for the concerted push for the renewed production of rare earths is the fact that China is by far the world's largest refiner of rare earths. Beijing has reportedly threatened to halt the export of the specialized minerals to the U.S. as the nearly two-year trade war between the countries rages on.

“The U.S. rare earths industry needs big help to compete against the Chinese,” Jim McKenzie, CEO of UCore Rare Metals, told the wire service. “It’s not just about the money, but also the optics of broad support from Washington.”

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center didn't immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.