US spends $1bn to secure supplies of critical minerals

31 August 2021

The US government is to invest almost $1m to create a sustainable domestic supply chain of critical minerals.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) said critical minerals were necessary to manufacture high-tech devices, especially technologies for national defence applications and green industries.

However, the US does not domestically produce fourteen of these minerals, and imports more than 50% of many others, because of a dearth of domestic supply.

The $1m investment will be used for six projects focusing on mineral processing technologies, to reduce reliance on imports and create a domestic supply chain.

Critical minerals include rare earth elements, which are used to manufacture cell phones, LED screens, solar panels, energy infrastructure, and defence equipment.

The US imports 80% of its rare earths from China, with some of the remainder indirectly sourced from China through other countries. 

FECM said creating its own domestic supply of rare earths and minerals would reduce the risk of supply disruption in essential domestic and military industries.

The current $5bn global rare earths market is projected to grow by 40% over the next five years, with similar growth anticipated for the rest of the critical minerals market, FECM said.

The DOE said the projects selected for funding would focus on developing innovative midstream processing technologies that would be environmentally benign and potentially lower capital costs and operating expenses. 

FECM funds research and development projects to reduce the cost of, and to decarbonise, power generation, and to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

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