The Pentagon has called for the introduction of new laws to bring an end to US dependence on China for rare earth minerals which are essential to the manufacture of key weapons and defence systems.
The legislation mooted by the Pentagon would raise spending caps under the Defence Production Act to enable the US government to spend more on rare earth mineral procurement, according to a report from Defense News.
Current law mandates that the Department of Defense cannot spend over $50 million in DPA funds without additional congressional notification.
Under the proposed legislation the US government would be able to spend USD$1.75 billion on rare earth elements used for munitions and missiles, as well as $350 million for microelectronics.
The legislation would also remove caps completely for hypersonic weapons.
Jeffrey Green, a defence industry consultant, said to Defence News that the move represents a major policy shift and is “the biggest thing that has happened to rare earths in a decade.”
According to Green the increase in spending is essential given the exorbitant cost of rare earth mineral processing.
“They have to put big dollars in if they want to separate the oxide at a state-of-the-art facility that’s going to be anywhere close to Chinese pricing,” he said.
China is currently the biggest source of imports of rare earth to the United States, and accounts for over 71% of global production.
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