Most Americans are familiar with the importance of oil for gasoline and diesel, copper for electric wiring and motors, and aluminum for packing and vehicles. However, we do not often hear about the importance of yttrium, cerium, neodymium, or lanthanum for consumer uses. These basic elements are critical for more efficient light bulbs, oil refinery catalysts, lasers, and batteries respectively.
To help secure the continued supply of minerals vital to our national defense, domestic energy, electronics production, and medical industry technologies, Senator Coons recently joined a bipartisan group of 16 senators to introduce the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013 (S. 1600). The legislation includes a number of provisions that would help revitalize the domestic supply of these precious minerals, many of which are in short supply domestically and come from overseas.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the United States is currently 100 percent dependent on foreign sources for 17 key mineral commodities and 50 percent dependent on overseas suppliers for some 24 additional minerals. The goal of the Critical Minerals Policy Act is to secure a more stable supply of mineral commodities by developing domestic sources, recycling existing supplies, and researching alternatives for critical minerals. Chris is also a strong supporter of efforts at the University of Delaware to develop alternatives to the use of rare earth elements, a subset of critical minerals.
Through the establishment of a federal register in the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Critical Minerals Policy Act will help officials pinpoint which minerals are subject to potential supply restrictions and develop strategies to prevent price shocks and balance market demand. Other agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE) and USGS, will join the DOI to strengthen educational research and workforce training critical to the development of domestic mineral supply chains. The legislation would also streamline the permit and review process of critical mineral mining on public lands to reduce costs and facilitate the environmentally responsible production of domestic resources.
To further public understanding of critical mineral solutions, the Critical Minerals Policy Act would expand research programs aimed at promoting efficient mineral use and recycling across various U.S. industries. The DOE would also submit an assessment of domestically trained workers capable of carrying out critical mineral research, analysis, manufacturing, and production to enhance the domestic availability of critical minerals.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, more than 25,000 pounds of new minerals are needed every year for each person in the United States in order to make the items we use every day for infrastructure, energy, transportation, communications, health care and defense. By coordinating efforts across federal agencies, the Critical Minerals Policy Act will help to update mineral policy for the 21st century and ensure our position in the world as both an economic and technological leader.