President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order targeting supply chains in key industries to bolster domestic production and avoid shortages of critical products.
The order directs an immediate 100-day review across federal agencies to address vulnerabilities in the supply chains across the healthcare, technology and transportation sectors, including for semiconductor materials, critical minerals, rare earth elements, and electric vehicle batteries.
USA Rare Earth, the funding and development partner of the Round Top heavy rare earth, lithium and critical minerals project in Hudspeth county, West Texas, welcomed Biden’s executive order.
“The assessments over the next 100 days will reiterate the importance of US national assets like our Round Top heavy rare earth and lithium project in providing the technology metals needed for the next century of US innovation and infrastructure,” said USA Rare Earth CEO Pini Althaus.
“We applaud President Biden’s urgency to assess and build additional US capacity across the transportation, energy and defense industrial base. Rare earths and critical minerals, including lithium, are essential to modern technology and require a robust, resilient strategy for US advanced manufacturing and national security. Round Top touches three of the four vital products leading the executive order today, including for semiconductors and electric vehicle batteries.”
During the signing ceremony, Biden discussed the manufacturing base and mentioned, “key minerals and materials, like rare earths, that are used to make everything from harder steel to airplanes”.
The Executive Order requires an immediate 100-day review of US supply chains for four key products, including APIs for pharmaceuticals, rare earth elements, semiconductors and advanced packaging, and large capacity batteries.
The Round Top deposit hosts the full range of rare earths and lithium for large capacity batteries and electric vehicle batteries, and also US government-listed critical minerals zirconium, hafnium and gallium, which are required for next-generation semiconductor manufacturing.
The reports will provide the White House with policy options for the national defence stockpile and will build on recent government efforts led by a September 2020 executive order which addressed threats to the US supply chain for critical minerals and rare earth elements. Subsequent government assessments within one year of Biden’s executive order will also examine the resiliency of essential materials to the defence and transportation industrial base, including gaps in domestic manufacturing capabilities and supply chains with a single point of failure, as well as opportunities to collaborate on production with allied nations.
“The Biden Administration is right to examine the criticality of numerous US materials and electronic goods that are vulnerable to global disruption on a daily basis, including rare earth elements,” said Althaus. “There is already surging demand for lithium and EV battery materials, and US manufacturers will need new sustainable supply to meet near term goals this decade. We welcome President Biden’s leadership as we work to restore a full mine-to-magnet, mine-to-market US supply chain.”
Currently, the US lacks a commercial-scale capability to process rare earth permanent magnets used in the automotive, aerospace, defence and electronics industries. In 2020, USA Rare Earth opened the first rare earth and critical minerals processing facility in the US and also acquired the neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) permanent magnet manufacturing equipment formerly operated by Hitachi Metals America in North Carolina. The company is completing plans to re-site and recommission the equipment; once operational, the facility will produce approximately 17% of the (2019) US permanent magnet demand. The permanent magnets will also be used for electric vehicle motors. At present, no other NdFeB permanent magnet manufacturing plant is operational in the Americas.