by Michael Bastasch
President Donald Trump’s administration’s release of a list of 35 critical minerals highlights just how reliant the U.S. is on foreign imports, according to mining advocates.
“What we see is the degree of U.S. dependency — the US is 100 percent import-dependent for 14 of the 35 minerals and more than 50 percent dependent for another 16,” said Daniel McGroarty, a principal at the American Resources Policy Network, which advocates for domestic mining.
“That’s more than 50 percent dependent for 30 of the 35 minerals on the list — materials that are critical for the national economy, for high-tech, for alternative energy applications, for national security,” McGroarty added in a statement issued Friday.
Republicans and mining advocates have warned for years the U.S. was too dependent on foreign countries — especially China and Russia. The U.S. also imports large amounts of critical minerals from Canada, a staunch ally.
Trump’s administration has called for boosting domestic critical mineral production for months. The department’s finalized list of critical minerals also contains Secretary Ryan Zinke’s call to “expedite access” for miners.
“The Critical Minerals List is a great starting point,” McGroarty said. “The question now is how the U.S. Government can match policy to the priority of overcoming our critical minerals deficit.”
The Interior Department released its critical minerals list on Friday, following up on an executive order Trump signed in December 2017 to “reduce our dependence on imports” of critical minerals to “improve our national security and balance of trade, and enhance the technological superiority and readiness of our Armed Forces.”
Interior’s list contained 35 critical minerals, including uranium, aluminum and titanium. The U.S. Geological Service compiled the list in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management.
While it’s unclear what actions Trump’s administration will take on critical minerals, the president signed tariffs on aluminum and steel in March. Trump put a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.
“Today I’m defending America’s national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum,” Trump said.
However, Trump recently delayed aluminum and steel tariffs from affecting imports from Europe and other U.S. allies. The U.S. imported more than five tons of aluminum in 2017, according to government data.
The Interior Department also noted The U.S. is also reliant on other imported minerals not meeting the threshold to be labeled “critical minerals.” These include copper, zinc, molybdenum, gold and silver.
“Take copper, which is not listed,” McGroarty said. “It is the gateway to five ‘co-product’ metals that are listed as critical but are not mined in their own right.”
“And the U.S. has a 600,000 [metric ton] copper gap each year — the gap between what we consume and what we produce,” McGroarty said.
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