Supply Risk Management Solutions for Rare Earths: Let Industry Take Lead

Lisa Reisman, Metal Miner

Here’s why policy-making for strategic metals and materials, rare earths, or whatever terminology you want to use, belongs outside of DC.

Existing legislative efforts — including H.R. 4402, National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012, H.R. 2011, National Strategic and Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2011 and S. 1113, The Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2011 — address the problem with a call for domestic mining and additional assessments, and in some cases, the streamlining of the mining permitting process.

We support these initiatives, but on a spectrum of “Do Nothing” to “Waiting for Congress and the President to Sign One of These Bills Into Law,” we will not have moved the needle one inch toward supplier diversification or independence.

During an afternoon keynote at the ARP Network’s conference, Jeff Green, president and founder of J.A. Green & Associates and probably one of the most well-known and prominent policy advocates for the rare earth metals industry, identified some additional solutions identified by the DOD, including the “predominant strategy” of substitutes and alternatives, where Green said this strategy has “not been thought through.”

We’d concur.

From a commercial standpoint, not that substitutes and alternatives don’t offer viable solutions, but typically, they take a long time to identify, test and implement and in and of itself, product substitution represents only a partial solution.

Industry Will Need to Take the Lead

During one of the cocktail hours after last week’s Strategic Minerals Conference, I had the opportunity to chat with someone who had talked about the approaches taken by other countries, particularly Japan, in which the Japanese government facilitated introductions and meetings among industry and Canadian junior mining firms.

Off-take agreements, creative tolling and processing operations, joint ventures and direct investment could also provide solutions toward reducing metal supply risk.

And given the speed and effectiveness in which all things legislative seem to get done, it’s probably best to take matters into one’s own hands, so to speak.