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U.S. May Seek to Reduce Imports of Identified Critical Minerals

Friday, May 18, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Trump administration is expected to begin taking steps to ease the United States’ dependency on imports of 35 minerals deemed by the Department of the Interior to be critical to U.S. security and economic prosperity. Such steps are likely to include efforts to reduce imports, boost domestic production, and find viable alternatives.

The department’s final list of critical minerals includes aluminum (bauxite), antimony, arsenic, barite, beryllium, bismuth, cesium, chromium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite (natural), hafnium, helium, indium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, niobium, platinum group metals, potash, the rare earth elements group, rhenium, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zirconium. However, this list will be updated periodically to reflect current data on supply, demand, and concentration of production as well as current policy priorities.

The Department of Commerce will next develop a report that includes (1) a strategy to reduce U.S. reliance on critical minerals, (2) an assessment of progress toward developing recycling and reprocessing technologies as well as technological alternatives, (3) options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with U.S. allies and partners, (4) a plan to improve the topographic, geologic, and geophysical mapping of the U.S. and make the resulting data and metadata electronically accessible, and (5) recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes. This report is currently due by late June.

The Interior Department notes that it received 453 comments on its proposed list, including 147 requests to add a total of 13 minerals (seven – copper, silver, nickel, gold zinc, molybdenum, and lead – each received more than ten requests) and 183 requests to delete uranium. However, the final list remains the same as proposed. The department explains that while it recognizes the economic significance and indispensable nature of these minerals, given current levels of domestic production the U.S. is not highly reliant on imports for these minerals and typically has a combination of domestic reserves and reliable foreign sources adequate to meet foreseeable domestic consumption requirements.

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