WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered the government to boost production of critical minerals used for manufacturing everything from smartphones to wind turbines and cars, raising the prospect of more mining.
A new executive order directs federal agencies to find ways to increase exploration, mining and processing of critical minerals and streamline permits for private mining companies.
The order follows a report Tuesday that says the United States is reliant on China, Russia and other nations for the overwhelming majority of minerals such as platinum, manganese and rare-earth elements. A majority of all but two of 23 minerals identified as critical are produced by other nations, the report said.
The executive order will reduce the nation’s vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals caused by hostile government actions, natural disaster or other events, Trump said.
“The United States must not remain reliant on foreign competitors like Russia and China for the critical minerals needed to keep our economy strong and our country safe,” he said.
Most of the minerals identified as critical are produced in China, including virtually all of the rare-earth elements integral to high-end electronics. The U.S. has reserves of rare-earth elements in California and other Western states, but has been “undercut” by low production costs in China, the federal report said.
The majority of platinum group elements are mined in Russia and South Africa, while Brazil produces niobium and cobalt comes from Congo.
Despite the presence of significant domestic deposits of most critical minerals, U.S. mining companies are limited by a lack of comprehensive data concerning mineral supplies and geology, permitting delays and “the potential for protracted litigation regarding permits that are issued,” the White House said.
An increase in private-sector domestic exploration and production of critical minerals will reduce dependence on imports, support job creation, preserve U.S. leadership in technological innovation and improve national security, the White House said.
The order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to develop a strategy to reduce reliance on foreign minerals within six months.
Zinke hailed the executive order and called the report by the U.S. Geological Survey troubling. “We are vulnerable as a nation,” Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, said Tuesday.