US Bill on Rare Earth supplies

The United States Government has recently proposed a bill to end China’s “chokehold” on rare – earth metal supplies.

Why the bill?

The rare earth metals are used almost in every latest technology starting from electric batteries to fighter jets. China has a strong chokehold on all these metals. In 2019, 80% of the US rare – earth metals was from China.

Aim of the bill

The bill aims to reduce the Chinese dependence on rare – earth metals. This is essential to protect US from threat of rare – earth metal supply disruption. It will encourage the residents to increase domestic production of the rare – earth metals. Ultimately it will reduce the US reliance on China.

Features of the bill

  • The bill urges to create a strategic reserve for the rare earth metals. The reserve shall be maintained by the Department of Defence and Interiors. The reserve shall serve the needs of the tech sector, US army and other essential infrastructural needs.
  • The capacity of the reserve should suffice American rare – earth metal needs for a period of one year.
  • It has requested the Commerce department to conduct an investigation on unfair trade practices of China.
  • The bill aims to provide higher transparency on the origin of the components.
  • It also restricts the use of Chinese rare – earth metals in sophisticated defence equipment.

Rare Earth Metals

The rare earth metals are the 17 metals in the periodic table. They are the 15 lanthanides and scandium and yttrium. They are mainly used in high tech devices such as mobile phones, flat screen monitors and televisions, electric and hybrid vehicles. They are also essential in defence applications such as radar, lasers, sonar systems and electronic displays.

Current Scenario

In 1993, US accounted to 38% of world rare earth production and China contributed to 33%. Now China contributes to 97% of rare earth metal production in the world.

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