How the US Squandered Its Strategic Minerals – Judith Bergman for the Gatestone Institute – 22.09.22
Having sold off so much of the US strategic critical mineral reserves, the US now depends on China for rare earth minerals, which are crucial for everything in the US military from F-35 fighter jets, missiles, and tanks to mobile phones and radio communication.
While China has been relentlessly pursuing self-reliance when it comes to raw materials -- especially strategic ones such as titanium, tungsten and cobalt, which are used in the defense industry -- the US for the past several decades has been selling off huge chunks of the strategic minerals stockpile to the extent that the National Defense Stockpile is reportedly reaching insolvency.
By comparison, China, as of 2020, was the world's third-largest exporter of titanium, while the US was the number one destination for the Chinese titanium exports.
It is China's growing influence in Africa, especially through its Belt and Road Initiative, the global infrastructure and economic development project that the Chinese Communist Party launched in 2013, that has helped China achieve such near monopolies when it comes to precious resources and raw materials.
The rare earths dependency on China stems in part from the fact that extracting rare earth minerals is an extremely polluting process that China has been willing to undertake, while most other countries have not, including the US, which ironically prides itself on having extremely strict environmental regulations in place.
The US, according to Reuters, has only one rare earths mine and no capability to process rare earth minerals. If China were to stop exporting them to the US, the country would fast run out of the basic building blocks required to produce the military hardware that the US needs, not to mention all the other items where rare earth minerals are needed.
At present, 40 out of Africa's 54 countries participate in China's Belt and Road Initiative.
"Beijing has increased its control of African commodities through strategic direct investment in oil fields, mines, and production facilities, as well as through resource-backed loans that call for in-kind payments of commodities. This control threatens the ability of U.S. companies to access key supplies." — U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2020 Report to Congress.
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Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Pictured: A front-loader shifts soil containing rare earth minerals, to be loaded on ships at a port in Lianyungang, China, on September 5, 2010. (Photo credit should read STR/AFP via Getty Images)