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Trucks at MP Materials’ rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, California. Source: Steve Marcus/Reuters.
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  • The US Department of Defense said on Tuesday that America and its allies should mine and process more rare earths to ensure sufficient global supply
  • It highlights the Pentagon’s increasing interest in public-private mining partnerships to counter China’s status as the world’s largest producer of rare earths
  • The Pentagon is also looking to assist mining companies in ally nations to “create a common understanding of sustainability”
  • Rare earths — a group of 17 minerals — are used to manufacture specialised magnets for weaponry and electric vehicles

The US Department of Defense said on Tuesday that America and its allies should mine and process more rare earths to ensure sufficient global supply of the strategic metals for both military and commercial purposes.

The remarks highlight the Pentagon’s increasing interest in public-private mining partnerships to counter China’s status as the world’s largest producer of rare earths — a group of 17 minerals used to manufacture specialised magnets for weaponry and electric vehicles.

“We know we cannot resolve our shared exposure to supply chain risk without a close partnership with industry,” Danielle Miller, an official at the Pentagon’s Office of Industrial Policy, said at the Adamas Intelligence North American Critical Minerals Days conference.

“New primary production of strategic and critical minerals — in a word, mining — is a necessity to increase resilience in global supply chains.”

Miller cited recent investments in US rare earths projects under development by NYSE-listed MP Materials and ASX-listed Lynas Rare Earths as evidence of the Pentagon’s desire to be a “patient, strategic investor” in private industry.

In February, the Pentagon awarded a US$30 million (A$40 million) contract to Lynas to build a Texas facility for processing specialised minerals. This was the second award Lynas has received from the Pentagon.

Last year, the business and Texas-based Blue Line Corp obtained money for the manufacturing of heavy rare earths, a less frequent form of mineral used in armament.

Lynas intends to export rare earths from its mine in Western Australia to Texas for final processing.

“Domestic production of strategic and critical materials is the ultimate hedge against the risk of deliberate non-market interference in extended overseas supply chains,” she said, likely referring to hints by China that it could curtail rare earth exports to the United States.

Miller also noted the Pentagon is looking to assist mining companies in ally nations to “create a common understanding of sustainability.” America’s environmental standards for mining are among the toughest in the world.

“We want to work with (miners) to accelerate the transition from the lowest cost, technically acceptable sourcing, to one that reflects our values,” she said.

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