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article imageArmy to fund rare earths for first time since Manhattan Project

By Karen Graham     Dec 11, 2019 in Technology
The U.S. Army plans to fund construction of rare earths processing facilities, part of an urgent push by Washington to secure a domestic supply of the minerals used to make military weapons and electronics, according to documents seen by Reuters.
China accounts for seven out of every 10 tons of rare earth minerals mined worldwide. Beijing also controls the price of these minerals, and should China use its dominance in rare earths as geopolitical leverage, it would not be the first time.
In 2010, China sharply limited rare-earth exports to Japan while the two countries were squabbling over disputed islands. According to Reuters, China has threatened to stop exporting the specialized minerals to the United States as part of its leverage in the ongoing trade war with the U.S.
According to the document seen by the news agency, last month, the Army division overseeing munitions asked mining companies for proposals on the cost of a pilot plant to produce so-called heavy rare earths. a less-common type of rare earth mineral usually used for weapons.
The Army says it will fund two-thirds of the cost for construction of a facility and will probably fund at least one project and possibly more. This will be the first time since the Manhattan Project that the military has invested in mass rare earths production.
A USGS geologist pans for monazite and rare earth minerals in Wolf Creek  which cuts through the Mel...
A USGS geologist pans for monazite and rare earth minerals in Wolf Creek, which cuts through the Melozitna granite. This area is part of the Bureau of Land Management's Central Yukon Planning Area in Alaska, which USGS did a mineral assessment of in 2015.
USGS/Sue Carl
“The U.S. rare earths industry needs big help to compete against the Chinese,” said Jim McKenzie, chief executive officer of UCore Rare Metals Inc, which is developing a rare earths project in Alaska. “It’s not just about the money, but also the optics of broad support from Washington.”
Responses and proposals are due by Dec. 16, 2019. UCore, Texas Mineral Resources Corp. and a joint venture between Lynas Corp and privately-held Blue Line Corp are among the expected respondents.
While the rare earths industry had its start in the United States decades ago, China has taken over the global supply chain, including control of the cost. “Instead of providing funds for yet another study, this allocates money toward establishing a U.S.-based rare earth supply chain,” said Anthony Marchese, CEO of Texas Mineral Resources, which is developing the Round Top mine in Texas with USA Rare Earth.
More about rare earth minerals, China, Pentagon, funding for plant, heavy rare earths
 
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