US spending bill includes funding for rare earths programs

December 31, 2020

The United States rare earth mining sector received a boost from the $2.3-trillion COVID-19 relied package that was signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Dec. 27. The package includes more than $800 million to fund rare earths and strategic minerals research, spending that mining companies say will help counteract China’s dominance over the sector.

Reuters reported that the $2.3 trillion, 5,593-page bill essentially codifies Trump’s executive orders on rare earths, a group of 17 minerals used to make magnets for electric vehicles, other green technologies and weapons.

The bill requires better geological studies of federal lands, funds studies into the processing and recycling of rare earths, and supports improvements to mining education programs.

The National Mining Association, as well as Energy Fuels Inc and other rare earth companies praised the bill’s minerals clauses.
Reviving domestic rare earths production has become a priority for Washington as relations with China have frayed.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Senate's energy committee said the bill “will enable the United States to increase the responsible production and processing of critical minerals.”

The Senate’s energy committee introduced minerals legislation last year that was folded into the larger bill.

The law requires the U.S. Geological Survey to forecast metals demand much like the Energy Department forecasts oil demand, a step that miners say will help them better plan projects.

“This bill is something that the U.S. needs in the near- to medium-term to refresh investment in renewable energy, especially after COVID-19,” said Mark Saxon, chief executive of Medallion Resources Ltd, which is considering building a rare earths plant in Texas.

Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, added a clause to the bill requiring an annual report from the director of national intelligence on China’s overseas mining investments.
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