March 27, 2015
This week, CBS News’ 60 Minutes featured a segment that d...
Access to minerals means a more secure America. Minerals are among the most important components in the technologies protecting our nation.
Minerals, Supply Chain and National Defense
Access to minerals is crucial for a more secure America. Minerals are the basic components that make up the technologies protecting our nation.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Defense uses 750,000 tons of minerals like copper, beryllium, aluminum and uranium in an array of military functions from the obvious to the unseen. For instance, because of copper’s ability to resist corrosion, it is critical to the production of military vehicles like aircrafts, army tanks and naval vessels. Beryllium, which is six times stronger than steel, yet lighter than aluminum, is often used to enhance the speed of fighter jets and is critical to U.S. surveillance technology, due to its ability to easily conduct heat. Additionally, aluminum is a key structural component in aircrafts thanks to its unique strength-to-weight ratio and anti-corrosive properties.
Moreover, minerals are critical to medical technologies and advancements that treat wounded veterans—uranium, for example, plays a key role in X-rays and MRIs, while titanium is used to construct prosthetic limbs and stentrodes.
Even though the U.S. is home to an estimated $6.2 trillion of mineral resources, our inefficient mine permitting process hinders our ability to access and produce these minerals, forcing the U.S. to become increasingly import reliant. The United States Geological Survey (USGS)’s 2017 Minerals Commodity Summaries shows that the U.S. is now 100 percent import reliant on 20 minerals—up from 19 in 2016—and more than 50 percent import reliant on an additional 30 minerals. According to NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn, “Although we have these minerals and metals in abundance, an inefficient permitting process has slowed access to them and steadily increased our reliance on foreign sources such as China.” Not only does this foreign reliance increase our risk of supply disruptions, but it also threatens our country’s national defense capabilities.
According to a recent poll, 63 percent of voters support a modernized mine permitting process that would reduce the protracted delays impeding the Department of Defense’s access to U.S. mineral resource supply. To respond at a moment’s notice to threats from anywhere around the globe, we will need a steady supply chain of minerals to meet our defense needs. As such, we need our leaders to create policies that will enable the United States to be more self-reliant and less dependent on minerals from other countries.