In a hearing held by the US House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources last week, a variety of mining industry stakeholders voiced their concerns about American dependence on foreign mineral imports and emphasized the need for a comprehensive US minerals policy that improves the regulatory approval processes for domestic resources development.
"Without increased domestic exploration, significant declines in US mineral production are unavoidable as present reserves are exhausted. We will continue to ship American jobs overseas and forfeit our economic competitiveness unless we take steps to develop our own mineral resources," said Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Doug Lamborn (CO-05). "Developing our Nation's mineral resources is not only an integral part of an all-of-the-above energy plan but it will create long-term family wage jobs, stimulate our economy and reduce our foreign dependence on mineral resources."
The US Geological Survey's (USGS) Mineral Commodity Summaries, released earlier this year, reports the US is completely (100 percent) dependent on foreign sources for rare earth elements (REE), 97 percent of which are provided by China.
However, in 2010, the USGS released a report revealing 13 million metric tons of REEs exist within known deposits in 14 US states. According to the House Subcommittee, the Obama administration is not doing enough to facilitate utilization of these domestic resources.
"A common conclusion of almost all recent studies on strategic and critical minerals is to urge governments to improve and expand activities related to information and analysis, education, and research," said Roderick G. Eggert, Professor at the Colorado School of Mines.
Late last year, the US Department of Energy also called for more federal attention on this critical issue. The DOE released a report outlining eight policy and program areas that could help the US reduce vulnerabilities and address critical REE needs.