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June 10, 2019

Up Against Threats From China, U.S. Issues Critical Minerals Plan

On June 4, the U.S. Commerce Department Commerce released a government-wide plan to help grow U.S. critical mineral workforce and streamline permitting. The report outlined 24 goals to protect American access to minerals and directed the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to work to speed rare earths mine permitting.

In a statement of its own, the DOI said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will undertake a comprehensive review of its permitting and land classifications, as well as its management plans. (The BLM administers more than 245 million surface acres of public land and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate and is committed to implementing efficiencies for the environmentally responsible development of critical minerals on federal lands.)

The DOI also noted mining is not the only way to secure critical minerals. Alternatives, such as recycling, processing mine waste, extraction from seawater or filtering minerals from energy byproducts also could prove valuable sources for critical minerals, the agency indicated. It promised “to assist other federal agencies … with evaluating these unconventional methods for bolstering the traditional supplies of critical minerals.”

The report comes after the Chinese government has increased rhetoric stressing that it could impose restrictions on exports of rare earth metals and critical minerals to the United States as a response to recent trade actions.