In the intricate dance of global trade, the United States finds itself entangled in a web of dependence on critical minerals, laying bare the fragility of its supply chain and the perils of relying on adversarial foreign powers.
For decades, nations have meticulously cataloged their critical minerals, essential for economic and national security. The Energy Act of 2020 defines these as minerals whose supply chains are susceptible to disruption, highlighting the potential vulnerabilities faced by the U.S.
Currently boasting 50 critical minerals on its list, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reveals a startling reality – China, a strategic rival, is the leading producer of 30 of these vital minerals. A cautionary tale unfolds as we delve into China’s dominant role in supplying key critical minerals to the U.S.
At the apex of this reliance stands yttrium, a metal of paramount importance to the U.S., with a staggering 100% import dependence and 94% of imports sourced from China between 2018 and 2021. Yttrium, a versatile element, finds application in alloys, radar components, and plastic production, highlighting the breadth of its impact.
Delving deeper, the U.S. also discovers itself at the mercy of China for nearly 75% of its rare earth compounds and metals demand. These elusive elements, known as rare earths, are integral to smartphones, cameras, and LEDs, and hold pivotal roles in clean energy and defense industries.
The stakes are high as the USGS warns that China holds the potential to disrupt the global rare earth oxide supply by curtailing 40–50% of production. Such a move could reverberate across the U.S., affecting the supply chains for advanced components vital to defense systems.
The narrative takes a disconcerting turn as China, wielding its economic influence, enforces export controls on germanium and gallium, minerals crucial to U.S. chip, solar panel, and fiber optics production. The retaliatory dance between nations unfolds, underscoring the susceptibility of the U.S. supply chain to geopolitical tensions.
This cautionary tale serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for strategic planning and domestic production to fortify the nation against external pressures. As the global stage becomes increasingly tumultuous, the imperative to secure critical mineral independence emerges as a national priority to safeguard against potential disruptions and ensure resilience in the face of geopolitical uncertainties.