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US to Work with Australia, Canada to Cut Reliance on Chinese Minerals

Over 80 percent of the global supply chain of rare earth elements is controlled by one country

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US, Australia, Canada
FILE - Samples of rare earth minerals (L-R): Cerium oxide, Bastnasite, Neodymium oxide and Lanthanum carbonate are on display during a tour of Molycorp's Mountain Pass Rare Earth facility in Mountain Pass, California. VOA

The United States will team up with Canada and Australia to help countries around the world develop their reserves of minerals like lithium, copper and cobalt, the State Department said on Tuesday, part of a multi-pronged strategy to reduce global reliance on China for materials crucial to high-tech industries.

Washington grew more concerned recently about its dependence on mineral imports after Beijing suggested using them as leverage in the trade war between the world’s largest economic powers.

This would interrupt the manufacture of a wide range of consumer, industrial and military goods, including mobile phones, electric vehicles, batteries, and fighter jets.

“Over 80 percent of the global supply chain of rare earth elements — is controlled by one country,” the State Department said in a fact sheet outlining the effort, which it has dubbed the Energy Resource Governance Initiative. “Reliance on any one source increases the risk of supply disruptions.”

US, Australia, Canada
The United States will team up with Canada and Australia to help countries around the world. VOA

Under the plan, the United States will share mining expertise with other countries to help them discover and develop their resources, and advise on management and governance frameworks to help ensure their industries are attractive to international investors.

Doing so will help to ensure global supply for the minerals can meet world demand, which is projected to surge alongside the growing take-up in high-technology goods. “Demand for critical energy minerals could increase almost 1,000% by 2050,” according to the fact sheet.

Frank Fannon, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for energy resources, said in an interview that tensions with China show the United States should be producing more rare earth minerals and help others ensure a secure supply. “We need to do more and we are not alone in this,” Fannon said.

Canada and Australia, two major mining countries, were partnering in the effort and other allies could join later, a U.S. official said.

Also Read- In Hot Water? Warming Oceans may Reduce Sea Life by 17%,Says Study

Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, said Canadian officials have met with the State Department several times to discuss critical minerals and environmental issues around global mining and he looks forward to advancing the initiative.

Representatives of Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plan was first reported on Tuesday morning by the Financial Times.

The plan comes a week after the U.S. Commerce Department recommended urgent steps to boost U.S. domestic production of “critical minerals,” including by providing low-interest loans to mining companies and requiring defense companies to “buy American.”

US, Australia, Canada
Washington grew more concerned recently about its dependence on mineral imports. Pixabay

The Commerce report also recommended that U.S. agencies review areas that are currently protected from development and assess whether those restrictions should be lifted or reduced to allow for critical minerals development. (VOA)

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Small Shops in US Often Sell Tobacco Without Checking Age

More than 64 per cent of grocery stores checked IDs, compared with about 34 per cent of convenience stores and tobacco shops, and 29 per cent bars, restaurants and alcohol stores

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FILE - An anti-tobacco warning is seen on a road divider on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Nov. 4, 2016. VOA

Those buying tobacco from shops in the US, especially small stores, are usually not asked for identification hence it is easy for underage users to buy cigarettes there, says a study.

When researchers, aged 20 and 21, visited a variety of shops in the US, more than 60 per cent of cashiers did not ask them for identification.

In the study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, it was found that these young adults slipped by without an age check most often when they visited small stores, tobacco shops and shops plastered with tobacco ads.

“Our findings suggest that certain types of stores – tobacco shops, convenience stores and those with a lot of tobacco advertising – are more likely to sell tobacco to a young person without checking his or her ID,” said Megan Roberts, Assistant Professor at Ohio State University in the US.

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FILE – Cigarette packs are seen on shelves in a tobacco shop in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France. VOA

“One implication of this finding is that enforcement may benefit from targeted outreach and monitoring at these locations,” she added.

The study included visits to a randomly sampled 103 tobacco retailers in 2017.

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More than 64 per cent of grocery stores checked IDs, compared with about 34 per cent of convenience stores and tobacco shops, and 29 per cent bars, restaurants and alcohol stores.

“Having a minimum legal sales age for tobacco is important for reducing youth access to tobacco. Not only does it prevent young people from purchasing tobacco for themselves, but it prevents them from buying tobacco and distributing it to others, often younger peers,” Roberts said. (IANS)