WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order declaring a national emergency in the mining industry, aimed at boosting domestic production of rare earth minerals critical for military technologies while reducing the country’s dependence on China.
Trump ordered his Cabinet secretaries to study the matter, with an eye toward government grants for production equipment, as well as tariffs, quotas or other import restrictions against China and other non-market foreign adversaries.
The order states that the county’s “undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
Rare earth elements are a group of 17 minerals critical to the defense industry’s manufacturing of missiles and munitions, hypersonic weapons, and radiation-hardened electronics — as well as consumer electronics like cellphones. The Trump administration previously identified 35 minerals as both essential and whose supplies are vulnerable to disruption.
The U.S. imports 80 percent of these elements directly from China, with portions of the remainder indirectly sourced from China through other countries, according to the order.