U.S. seeks to help coun­tries boost min­eral out­put

Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment hop­ing to re­duce re­liance on China for rare ma­te­ri­als in global mar­ket

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - REUTERS

WASHINGTON - The United States will team up with Canada and Aus­tralia to help coun­tries around the world de­velop their re­serves of min­er­als like lithium, cop­per and cobalt, the State De­part­ment said on Tues­day, part of a multi-pronged strat­egy to re­duce global re­liance on China for ma­te­ri­als cru­cial to high-tech in­dus­tries.

Washington grew more con­cerned re­cently about its de­pen­dence on min­eral im­ports after Beijing sug­gested us­ing them as lev­er­age in the trade war be­tween the worlds largest eco­nomic pow­ers. This would in­ter­rupt the man­u­fac­ture of a wide range of con­sumer, in­dus­trial and mil­i­tary goods, in­clud­ing mo­bile phones to batteries and fighter jets.

Over 80 per cent of the global sup­ply chain of rare earth el­e­ments is con­trolled by one coun­try, the State De­part­ment said in a fact sheet out­lin­ing the ef­fort, which it has dubbed the En­ergy Re­source Gov­er­nance Ini­tia­tive. Re­liance on any one source in­creases the risk of sup­ply dis­rup­tions.

Un­der the plan, the United States will share min­ing ex­per­tise with other coun­tries to help them dis­cover and de­velop their re­sources, and ad­vise on man­age­ment and gov­er­nance frame­works to help en­sure their in­dus­tries are at­trac­tive to in­ter­na­tional in­vestors.

Do­ing so will help to en­sure global sup­ply for the min­er­als can meet world de­mand, which is pro­jected to surge along­side the grow­ing take-up in high-tech­nol­ogy goods. De­mand for critical en­ergy min­er­als could in­crease al­most 1,000 per cent by 2050, ac­cord­ing to the fact sheet.

A U.S. of­fi­cial said Canada and Aus­tralia, two ma­jor min­ing coun­tries, were part­ner­ing in the ef­fort, and that other al­lies could join later. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Canada and Aus­tralia did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The plan was first re­ported on Tues­day morn­ing by the Fi­nan­cial Times.

The plan comes a week after the U.S. Com­merce De­part­ment rec­om­mended ur­gent steps to boost U.S. do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of critical min­er­als, in­clud­ing by pro­vid­ing low-in­ter­est loans to min­ing com­pa­nies and re­quir­ing de­fense com­pa­nies to buy Amer­i­can.

The Com­merce re­port also rec­om­mended that U.S. agen­cies re­view ar­eas that are cur­rently pro­tected from de­vel­op­ment and as­sess whether those re­stric­tions should be lifted or re­duced to al­low for critical min­er­als de­vel­op­ment.

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