Ceramic Industry

USMMA Applauds Proposed Rare Earths Legislation

March 25, 2010

The U.S. Magnet Materials Association (USMMA) recently applauded Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman for introducing legislation to address the impending rare earths crisis. Coffman’s Rare Earth Supply-Chain Technology and Resource Transformation (RESTART) Act of 2010, H.R. 4866, would reestablish competitive domestic rare earth mineral production, processing, refining, purification, and metals production industries to support the growth of green job technology and manufacturing, as well as the nation’s defense industry.

The legislation would create a “whole-of-government” approach involving the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Energy, State, and Defense; Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; and Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Coffman’s RESTART Act builds on several elements of the USMMA’s platform for resolving the rare earth elements (REE) supply crisis, a serious threat to the U.S.’ economic and national security.

Today, the U.S. is almost totally dependent on foreign sources for rare earth materials. These elements are essential to numerous renewable energy and defense systems, including wind turbines, hybrid-electric batteries, computer hard drives and precision-guided munitions. Currently, China provides over 97% of the world’s rare earth raw materials and dominates the world’s rare earth refining, alloying and manufacturing.

Coffman’s bill would:
  • Establish a federal government rare earths working group
  • Assess the domestic rare earth supply chain to determine which rare earth elements are critical to America’s national defense and economic security
  • Create a national stockpile within the Department of Defense for important rare earth materials
  • Evaluate international trade practices in the rare earth materials market relative to market manipulation and initiate appropriate action through the World Trade Organization and elsewhere
  • Provide government-backed loan guarantees for domestic rare earth supply chain development
  • Initiate warranted Defense Production Act projects and programs relative to our national defense and homeland security
  • Support innovation, training and workforce development of the entire domestic rare earth supply chain
Currently, there is one U.S. rare earth mine and processing facility (which is not mining), a major United States Geological Survey-validated deposit of rare earths in Idaho, two small alloying facilities and one significant rare earth magnet producer, making the nation’s supply chain for critical renewable energy and defense systems nearly non-existent and leaving the U.S. dangerously vulnerable to potentially unreliable foreign nations.

The USMMA believes that urgent and collective action is needed by the federal government in order to head off the impending rare earth crisis. It is estimated that Chinese domestic consumption of rare earth materials will outpace Chinese domestic supply as early as 2012. With a 3-5 year timeline to reestablish a domestic rare-earth supply-chain, the U.S. is already in a “silent crisis.” It is unclear whether rare earth material will be available outside China in the coming years.

The USMMA’s website is located at www.usmagnetmaterials.com. To view the text of Coffman’s bill, visit http://coffman.house.gov/images/stories/hr4866.pdf.