CHICAGO - A Washington-based trade group focused on rare-earth permanent magnet materials Wednesday issued an appeal for the US government to create a strategic reserve of critical rare earth metals, alloys and magnets citing their importance to US defense and national security requirements.
The United States Magnetic Materials Association (USMMA) noted in a statement that 2010 production had rare earth oxide at 120,000 metric tons had fallen 40,000 tons short of demand and that sharp reductions in export quotas by China, the largest source of rare earth supplies, combined with a de facto embargo of Japan by China for part of last year mean that "the shortage is real and getting worse by the day."
A strategic stockpile would ensure that the Department of Defense has ready access to rare earth materials needed for national security and would incentivize domestic manufacturing, executives said. "With defense critical materials such as dysprosium being source solely from China, it is critical that the Department of Defense have access to rare earth oxides from reliable producers and manufacturers in the United States," the statement said.
"USMMA members believe that the United States and its allied nations are fully capable of producing required critical materials, including rare earth metals, alloys and magnets and that the US government can and should take immediate action to secure a supply of these materials."
Nearly $1 billion in currently planned private investment in mining and separation for rare earth production by companies in the industry is expected to increase the supply of rare earth oxides outside of China by at least 11,000 metric tons by late this year, association executives said.
China is estimated to have about 34% of worldwide rare earth reserves while supplying 97% of current consumption but the trade group noted that US and other non-Chinese sources of supply could provide enough rare earth ore to supply the domestic US industry.
Phil Burgert is managing editor of ResourceInvestor.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.