One of the long term concerns regarding the increased production of electric vehicles is the supply of rare earth metals. These metals are used for magnets for electric vehicles, rechargeable batteries and display screens. Most of the material can be found only in China and their increased demand may lead to increased prices.
A proposed legislative solution has been made by Reps Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn to remove the Chinese monopoly on rare earth metals. Most mines in the United States closed down due to lack of demand as the Chinese mining industry undercut global prices to corner the supply and demand.
Both Republican Congressmen co-authored the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2011. The bill aims to deregulate the American rare earth industry through review, modification and removal of U.S. laws deemed detrimental to the US industry.
With the proposed legislation, a key area of vulnerability in the U.S. defense capability is addressed as China continues to strong arm the market through embargoes as well as limiting supplies to drive up prices.
There are major issues though with the re-opening of rare earth mining facilities in the country. Aside from the environmental impact mining creates, the refinement of rare earth metals results in radioactive wastes that can result in environmental degradation. There have even been studies showing that birth defects, as well as leukemia rates, increase near and around rare earth refineries.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the largest rare earth deposits in the world can be found in Southern Colorado. While rare earth metals can be found abundantly in the Earth’s crust, only a few areas in the world have deposits that can be mined and used for current commercial needs.
As of the moment, the United States House Committee on Natural Resources unanimously approved the bill at the committee level and forwarded it for plenary discussion. What this means is that China would not continue to have a stranglehold over the rare earth metals market and soon a better system, as well as supply, would be made available for electric cars and other environmentally sound transport use and assembly.