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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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US Officials Identify ‘Strong Culprit’ in Vaping Illnesses

Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that a compound known as vitamin E acetate is a "very strong culprit"

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US, Vaping, Illnesses
FILE - A man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette, Oct. 18, 2019. VOA

U.S. health officials say they have found the likely cause of a mysterious illness in people who smoke e-cigarettes, describing the findings as a “breakthrough.” US.

Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that a compound known as vitamin E acetate is a “very strong culprit” in the search for the cause of the mysterious lung disease.

Schuchat, who is the CDC’s principal deputy director, said the compound was found in fluid samples taken from the lungs of 29 patients across the country who were diagnosed with the vaping illness.

“We are in a better place in terms of having one very strong culprit,” she said.

US, Vaping, Illnesses
File – In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine. VOA

Schuchat cautioned that more work needs to be done to confirm that vitamin E acetate causes lung damage when inhaled, and said there could still be other toxic substances in e-cigarettes that lead to lung disease.

More than 2,000 Americans who smoke e-cigarettes have gotten sick since March, and at least 40 of them have died.

Health officials say that vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, but that inhaling it can be harmful.

The compound is sometimes used as a thickener in vaping fluid, especially in black market vape cartridges and those containing THC — the component of marijuana that gets people high.

Also Read- Nobody Takes Serious Speeches of Movie Stars Seriously, Says Bollywood Star Shah Rukh Khan

E-cigarettes have been available in the United States for more than a decade. They work, in general, by using a battery to heat a liquid nicotine solution and turn it into an inhalable vapor.

While e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, they have been considered safer than traditional cigarettes because they do not contain tar or many of the other substances in traditional cigarettes that make them deadly.

Advocates of e-cigarettes say they are a powerful tool to help adult smokers quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

However, critics say that e-cigarettes are making a new generation addicted to nicotine. They also point out that the long-term health consequences of vaping are not known, and say that e-cigarettes could contain other potentially harmful substances, including chemicals used for flavoring and traces of metals. (VOA)