US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order declaring a national emergency in the mining industry, a move that seeks to curb the country’s reliance on rare earths in his latest bid to end China’s control of the market.
The directive, issued late Wednesday night, asks the Interior Department to explore using the 70-year-old Defense Production Act to speed up mine development.
It also calls for a report evaluating possible measures such as tariffs, quotas, or other trade restrictions targeting China and “other non-market foreign adversaries.”
Local rare earth miners hailed the move. Pini Althaus, chief executive of USA Rare Earth, said it was “an important step toward ensuring the US is free from price manipulation and other aggressive economic maneuvers”.
Critical minerals have been a focus of the Trump administration. The White House has signed agreements with Canada and Australia, among other nations, to secure supply of minerals needed for a range of modern life’s aspects, including electric vehicles (EVs), green technologies and military applications.
Last year, the White House ordered the Defense Department to boost production of rare-earth magnets used in consumer electronics, military hardware and medical research, amid concerns China would restrict exports of the products as trade tensions between the countries grew.
The US is not alone in its quest to reduce reliance on foreign producers. In September, the European Union stepped up its efforts to become less dependent on imported raw materials, including rare earths and, for the first time, lithium.