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U.S. Set to Secure Critical Domestic Rare Earths Supply Chain by 2027

The United States is on track to meet its goal to have by 2027 a domestic supply chain of rare earth elements for its defense needs, according to a senior official at the Department of Defense.

The U.S. looks to cut its reliance on Chinese rare earth materials and has classified close allies Australia, Canada, and the UK as a ‘domestic’ source of critical mineral supply.  

“We are on track to meet our goal of a sustainable mine to magnet supply chain capable of supporting U.S. defence requirements by 2027,” Laura Taylor-Kale, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy, said at a mining industry conference in Australia on Wednesday, as carried by Reuters.

The U.S. has already backed several Australian miners to set up projects to mine rare earth minerals and establish supply chains.    

Earlier this year, Australian Strategic Materials received a non-binding and conditional Letter of Interest (LoI) from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (US EXIM) to provide a debt funding package of up to US$600 million for the construction and execution phase of the rare earths and critical minerals Dubbo Project in New South Wales.

EXIM is also supporting Australia-listed Meteoric Resources for its Caldeira Rare Earth Ionic Clay Project in Brazil.

Separately, the U.S. DoD is backing with funding the construction of a rare earths processing facility in Texas of Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths.

In March, DoD said that it “has in recent months advanced its goal of developing domestic supply chains to ensure continued access to the rare earth materials needed to manufacture the permanent magnets used in important U.S. military weapons systems.”

Rare earth permanent magnets are essential components in a range of defense capabilities, including the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, Virginia and Columbia class submarines, and unmanned aerial vehicles. They are also a critical part of commercial applications in the United States.  

China is expected to hold 77% of rare earths elements refining in 2030, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report this month, classifying the geopolitical risk in the supply of REE as ‘high’ due to the concentration of refining in one single country, China.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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