The United States unveiled Tuesday a strategy based on six action plans to ensure the country's supply of strategic minerals including rare earth, essential to all electronic equipment

A strengthening of Sino-American tensions

The White House has decided to act to guard against a dependence, considered too important and harmful, on foreign imports of "critical" minerals. In the commercial war against Washington, Beijing has recently raised the threat of opening a new front: that of rare earths, 80% from China and are a vital need for many high-tech firms . . Its stake, according to Wilbur Ross, the US Secretary of Commerce, quoted in a statement: "ensure that the United States will not be cut off from these vital materials."

By the end of December 2017, Donald Trump had issued a presidential decree aimed at "guaranteeing safe and reliable supplies of critical minerals" for US security, such as uranium or rare earths. He regretted that the country was "heavily dependent on imports of certain products essential to security and economic prosperity".

So he asked for a report that has just been made to identify new sources of "critical materials" and to define a "strategy to reduce the dependency of the nation" on these types of products.

It is true that the issue is important. "The United States is heavily dependent on imports of crucial minerals," says the report of about fifty pages.

In fact, the report mentions 35 strategic elements (including uranium, titanium and rare earths) for which the United States is particularly dependent on foreign countries. And recalls that for 14 of them, "the United States has no domestic production and is completely dependent on imports".

"If China or Russia stops exports to the United States and its allies for an extended period - similar to China's rare earths embargo in 2010 - a prolonged disruption of supply could cause shocks in the United States, "the report warns.

A disaster scenario that would be as damaging to US green technologies (wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars) as to the defense industry. Military equipment such as Abrams tanks, long-range missiles, F-35 combat aircraft have recourse to it.

A strategy with 24 objectives

To avoid any catastrophic scenario, the US administration released on Tuesday a "federal strategy to ensure safe and reliable supplies" in materials deemed critical to national security. The report proposes a strategy based on six action plans, defines 24 objectives and puts forward about sixty recommendations.

Among the action plans, the authors recommend firstly to accelerate the R & D and the deployment of methods of recycling and reuse of these strategic minerals. It is also necessary to find alternatives, to diversify the supply and to improve the processes of extraction, separation and purification. Washington must also strengthen cooperation and improve international trade in these minerals with its allies.

The strategic plan also provides for a precise census of the natural resources available in the country in order to exploit them. But also to develop less traditional supply chains, using for example the extraction of these rare earths from seawater or coal waste.

And, as it has done for other industries, the administration wants to deregulate in order to speed up the issuance of new mining licenses. And finally, the US government wants to ensure that it has the skilled manpower to carry out its project and build a strong national industrial base.

Overall, the plan aims to act on the entire supply chain, both upstream and downstream, to make the United States less dependent on other nations to obtain and process critical minerals.

Joanne Courbet for DayNewsWorld