Agoracom Blog

New GAO Report on “Rare Earth Metals In Defense Supply Chain” Illustrates Concern With China’s Supply Control

Posted by AGORACOM at 10:45 AM on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

On April 14, 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) submitted a Report On Rare Earth Materials In The Defense Supply Chain to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives.  It is a 38-page report that is well worth the read for anybody invested or interested in Rare Earth Metals companies.  I read it and came away with a clear impression of concern over China’s supply of Rare Earth Metals.  Here are some highlights:

I found it interesting that the DOD has not yet identified national security risks as a result of REM dependency, yet a few pages later states that China produced 97% of rare earth oxides in 2009.  Furthermore, the report goes on to say that refined rare earth metals are almost exclusively available from China.

Now, logically speaking, that isn’t necessarily a concern if rare earth metal supplies could be readily developed and produced elsewhere.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case according to this:

The report goes on to add that other obstacles stand in the way of rebuilding a US supply chain including:

  • Environmental Standards & Compliance – Significantly higher in the US than China
  • Patents – Foreign companies own patents on manufacturing key rare earth metals
  • Time – Alternatives to rare earth metals could take 10-15 years and still not meet spec requirements

Overall, this is a great report and a must read for anyone that is investing in the future of this space.


2 Responses to “New GAO Report on “Rare Earth Metals In Defense Supply Chain” Illustrates Concern With China’s Supply Control”

  1. AGORACOM says:

    Ted, thanks for chiming in with a great specific example. Yep, as mentioned in my post, one big hurdle to reestablishing the REM supply chain in the USA is environmental – a problem that does not plague Chinese projects at this time.

    It’s ironic that US environmental laws make approval for rare earth metal projects so difficult, given the fact REM’s play such a big role in green technology.


  2. Ted says:

    GAO and DOD dont need to look very far to find a case study.
    They need only to examine the way USFS has dogged Formation Metals (FCO-T) thwarting their attempts to build America’s only Cobalt mine.
    Cobalt is just as strategic as rare earths, being used in jet turbine blades.
    Hopefully FCO will succeed in producing a core amount of Cobalt in America rather than leaving strategic needs in the hands of Democratic Republic of the Congo.