By Mike Pompeo, 70th U.S. Secretary of State and Strategic Advisor to USA Rare Earth
The importance of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) to critical applications of contemporary technology cannot be overstated. Our national defense industry depends on a reliable supply of REEs, as they are vital in producing precision-guided missiles, radar systems, and other crucial defense-related technology. REEs are crucial to our domestic economy as well, being necessary to everything from the processing in oil refineries to the advanced semiconductor chips in our phones and computers. As the 70th U.S. Secretary of State and a former business owner in the aerospace and energy industries, I know firsthand the importance of a secure supply chain for these critical minerals.
Unfortunately, the importance of REEs to U.S. security and prosperity is seemingly taken for granted. Right now, at least 75% of our rare earth metal imports originate in China, where roughly 90% of global REE processing occurs. This dependency creates great risk for our nation: Just as European dependence on Russian oil granted Vladimir Putin critical leverage and encouraged his invasion of Ukraine, deep U.S. reliance on China’s stockpile of REEs to keep our economy stable leaves our critical supply chains vulnerable and invites geopolitical aggression and disruption by the CCP. To avert this outcome, we must establish our own domestic supply chain for REEs here at home.
Fortunately, America possesses the potential to accomplish this mission – indeed, up until the 1980s, the United States was the leading producer of these materials. It must be so once again.
USA Rare Earth is assembling a fully integrated rare earth supply chain in the United States. The company aims to bring the mining and processing of REEs back to the U.S. to reduce foreign dependencies and create additional American jobs. Today, it owns the only scalable, sintered neo-magnet manufacturing system in the Western Hemisphere, and it is poised to become the leading domestic supplier of critical materials needed by our defense industry and domestic economy. USA Rare Earth is also committed to environmental sustainability, aiming to minimize the environmental impact of its operations and develop new ways to recycle and reuse rare earth materials. Above all, they are leading the way to meeting a critical American need. That’s why I was pleased to join the company as a Strategic Advisor and support its vital work.
As Secretary of State, I made it clear that the challenge presented by the CCP touches every facet of American society. Our dependence on China for REEs is no exception. Thus, government must play an active and critical role in establishing a domestic supply of REEs. Let’s be clear: This is an incredible opportunity to bring industry and jobs back to the American economy – jobs that were lost to China decades ago. We should capitalize on it by streamlining permitting processes, funding new infrastructure, and supporting the development of new technologies. And we should be careful not to squander this moment by imposing burdensome regulations from on high. The goal should be the creation of an environment where businesses at every step of the REE supply chain can succeed, while keeping Chinese firms that answer to the CCP out – something I have strongly advocated for in the past. This is a case we should be making at every level of government: at local town halls, state legislatures, and Congress.
In the 20th century, America was defined by our role as a leader in technological advancement and our commitment to defending free and open global markets. This delivered unprecedented prosperity not just for America, but for the entire world. Retaining this role in the 21st century will depend in part on our ability to secure a domestic supply of critical minerals. Policymakers must continue prioritizing this issue and take concrete steps to build a robust and reliable domestic supply chain for these materials. With continued investment and innovation, we can ensure that America remains a global leader in critical mineral production and technology development.