Udall Backs Responsible Development of Critical Minerals and Materials
Today, Mark Udall announced that he has introduced a bill designed to restore our country's leadership in the critical minerals and materials industry, which is increasingly important in the manufacturing of clean energy and defense technology. Critical materials are used in products from cell phones to weapons guidance systems, and include neodymium, used in the manufacture of wind turbines, and dysprosium, which is used in electric cars.
Udall's Critical Minerals and Materials Act of 2011 is focused on rebuilding the industry on two levels: to help develop a domestic supply chain of critical minerals and materials, which includes rare-earth materials, and to nurture an expert workforce to mine and process the minerals. Udall, a member of both the Energy and Natural Resources and Armed Services committees, believes strengthening the U.S. supply will prevent our market for these materials from relying too much on foreign sources. China controls 97 percent of the world market for rare-earth materials.
Udall is choosing to focus solely on those few critical minerals and materials that have a vulnerable supply chain because they may soon become unavailable or extremely expensive.
"When the rare earth industry left the United States, our critical-materials workforce dwindled as well. Most of the worldwide expertise is now based in China - and even the U.S.-developed intellectual property for making many of these materials is based in Japan," Udall said. "With the importance of these and other critical materials for defense and the development of a robust clean energy industry, it's now vital that we rebuild our domestic critical-materials industry and bring back some of these well-paying jobs to Americans.
"However, while I believe there is a need to develop our critical materials supply chain and workforce, we can't lose sight of the need for balance between the demand for new materials and our stewardship responsibility for our natural resources," he continued. "So while I'm pushing to rebuild this industry, I'm also going to keep pushing for mining law reforms that would allow critical materials to be mined in a safe and responsible way."
The bill would:
• Direct the U.S. Department of Energy to begin research and development on critical minerals and materials in order to strengthen our domestic supply chain. The DOE is also charged with developing a well-paid workforce with expertise in processing these materials.
• Direct the Interior Department to gather information on the current supply and resource base and to forecast our country's future materials needs.
• And ask the President to coordinate these agencies and monitor other activities surrounding the use of these materials, including the supply chain, developments by private enterprise and recycling efforts.