Rare Earths Supply Risk Solutions Lie Outside the Beltway

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As with all big hairy problems, problem identification represents the easy part.

Formulating and implementing solutions becomes especially difficult particularly when our own government can’t seem to agree on what to call the problem – is it a strategic mineral dependence? A rare earth metal dependence? Or ‘just’ a critical metal dependence?

As we reported last week, the American Resources Policy Network released a report, “Reviewing Risk: Critical Metals and National Security,” attempting to create a framework, or lens, from which all policy-makers (and other solution strategists, which we’ll come to in a moment) can agree as a way to evaluate a broader range of metals as part of our “metal dependency.” See our first piece covering that story here. This broader range of metals covers applications for national security to consumer products.

The American Resources Policy Network report identifies the degree of dependency the US has on other countries to supply the 43 metals identified in the American Resource Risk Pyramid. Some of these metals include: aluminum, beryllium, chromium, cobalt, manganese, niobium, columbium, platinum, tantalum, tin, titanium, tungsten, yttrium and zinc.

This analysis becomes useful from a commercial sourcing perspective because it provides companies with a high-level sense of supply dependency (that also impacts everything from tantalum prices to aluminum prices) and identifies other potential countries of supply.

Where the Policy Discussion Falls Short

The issue of supply risk for metals takes on two distinct flavors – the first flavor, popular in Washington, D.C., involves national security – the argument for government intervention and policy comes as a result of the dependency on key materials and their impact or threat to national security.

We don’t take issue with that argument. In fact, we can probably all agree that national security creates a compelling reason to advance the discussion. But in our wider commercial world of metals – the solution to the same problem – supply risk needs to lie outside of Washington, D.C.

Final conclusions in Part Three.

 

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