Initiative marks first time US Army takes up commercial-scale rare earths processing after Manhattan project
The US military will fund a processing center for the so-called rare earths – rare metals used in high-tech and advanced weapons projects, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing classified US documents it obtained.
According to the agency, the Army will bankroll at least one project, with a range of top US mining companies expected to deliver their business plans by December 16.
The military will reportedly provide for two-thirds of the costs, Reuters says, adding this will be the first time the US Army got into commercial-scale rare earths project since World War II’s Manhattan project.
The move followed President Trump’s call for the military to secure an independent supply of rare earths in a bid to offset China’s dominance in this market.
China is currently world’s top exporter of rare earths, accounting for 80% of US imports, and it threatened to cut the exports as part of the the trade war between Beijing and Washington.
In spring 2018, a US government report cited a lack of domestic alternatives “creates a strategic vulnerability for both its economy and military.”
While the elements are hard to produce, there are at least two major deposits in the US – in west Texas and in Wyoming.
The trade talks between the US and China, initiated amid tariffs being slapped on each other by both sides, are said to be nearing an end, although there seems to be little clarity on when a deal of some sort could be reached.