Australia Could Play Bigger Role In Supplying U.S. Military With Rare Earth Minerals

August 27, 2019 by Dan McCue
3rd MAW (Fwd) Helps Geologists Digging Up Opportunity for Afghanistan Photo by Cpl. Ryan Rholes Marine Corps Air Station Miramar / 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

WASHINGTON – With trade tensions between U.S. and China still on a high boil, Australia stands poised to become the Defense Department’s primary supplier of Rare Earth metals, a department official said Monday.

Rare Earth metals are a collection of 17 minerals used in everything from magnets and batteries to cell phones and fighter jets, and satellites to high-tech guidance systems.

Currently, nearly all of the world’s supply — roughly 85% — is produced by state owned enterprises in China, which has threatened to withhold them.

As a result, “we’ve been focused on Rare Earths for quite some time,” said Ellen M. Lord, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, during a briefing with reporters on Monday.

“We’re concerned about any fragility in the supply chain, and especially where an adversary controls the supply,” she said.

The only other significant source of Rare Earth metals is mined in Western Australia, located about 620 miles northeast of Perth, which produces about 15 percent of the global supply.

Lord said when it comes to Rare Earth metals, “the challenge is really the processing of them and having facilities to do that.”

And while China does indeed have significant mines within its borders, the reality is its great strength in the market is based on its mining Rare Earth metals elsewhere and bringing them back to China for processing.

“So we are looking at a variety of mechanisms to stand up processing facilities,” Lord said. “And one of the highest potential avenues, I think, is to work with Australia.”

In fact, mining industry analysts have long said that if Australia could grow its production of Rare Earth metals, it could attract significant investment from the U.S. and others looking for a safe and secure supplier.

Lord said she visited Australia this summer and had extensive discussions about whether or not the U.S. and Australia could work together on a Rare Earth metals processing facility “that would not only take care of our DoD needs, but a variety of other international needs as well.”

Australia’s Northern Minerals opened a pilot processing plan last year and began shipments from it in September 2018.

It hopes to someday be a significant global supplier of dysprosium, which is used by electric vehicle makers in the manufacturing of industrial magnets that are used in electric engines., and can also be found in wind turbines and other large industrial engines.

The research and development phase for the pilot plant began in June 2018 and is expected to take up to three years.

Lord didn’t say whether she actually visited the plant while in Australia, telling reporters only “a variety of avenues were pursued.”

Dep. of Defense

Defense Analysts Caution Against U.S. Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan
Geopolitics
Defense Analysts Caution Against U.S. Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan
November 20, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Defense analysts warned Congress Friday against the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan announced this week amid indications that radical Islamists could resume terrorist attacks. They said further proof is needed that Taliban fighters would not try to seize control of Afghanistan before the Trump... Read More

Senior Pentagon Official Resigns as Trump Remakes Leadership
Dep. of Defense
Senior Pentagon Official Resigns as Trump Remakes Leadership

WASHINGTON — A senior Defense Department official resigned on Tuesday, opening the way for a longtime ally of President Donald Trump to take on a key leadership role a day after Pentagon chief Mark Esper was fired. James Anderson, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, had been in his current role... Read More

Esper's Firing Raises Concerns About Trump's Plans for the Pentagon in Final Weeks
Pentagon
Esper's Firing Raises Concerns About Trump's Plans for the Pentagon in Final Weeks

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's decision to fire Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday raised concerns that he may be planning far-reaching military moves in his final weeks in office — and is putting in place new leadership more inclined to go along. Trump named Christopher Miller, director of the national counterterrorism... Read More

Space Force Establishes Operations Command
Military
Space Force Establishes Operations Command
October 27, 2020
by Reece Nations

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Space Force recently launched its Space Operations Command, according to Air Force Magazine. Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting was introduced as the head of the operations command during a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Oct. 21, according to AFM.... Read More

Bootcamp to Begin for First Class of Space Force Recruits
Military
Bootcamp to Begin for First Class of Space Force Recruits
October 21, 2020
by Reece Nations

SAN ANTONIO – The military’s newest branch, the United States Space Force, swore in its first recruits Tuesday, Oct. 20. Seven recruits, five men and two women, will commence the force’s inaugural boot camp at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland for seven and a half weeks, according... Read More

Federal Agencies Using Machine Learning and AI to Tackle Problems
Technology
Federal Agencies Using Machine Learning and AI to Tackle Problems
October 15, 2020
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — Machine learning and artificial intelligence technology are fast-moving, complex technologies businesses and government agencies are increasingly putting to use to develop efficiencies of people and processes. Federal IT practitioners, in particular, are seeing the benefits of this technology today. The Federal News Network convened... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top