Western Countries Lay Groundwork for Rare Earths Metals Boom

Rare earth elements are critical to the modern economy due to their applications in several key industries. Their unique magnetocrystalline, electrochemical and luminescent properties allow rare earth elements to serve in technology-based sectors, consumer electronics and even national defense systems. This includes purifying semiconductor materials, such as gallium nitride and silicon carbide, and acting as essential raw materials in the permanent magnets used in electric-vehicle motors and wind-turbine generators.

With the United States and other major nations looking to transition to electric vehicles over the next few decades, demand for rare earth metals is set to explode. However, with the majority of the world’s supply of rare earth metals coming from China, most western nations are looking to build up domestic rare-earth-metal supplies or partner with suppliers from allied nations.

China currently processes as much as 90% of the world’s supply of rare earth elements, giving it unprecedented leverage in a segment that is critical to several tech industries and national security. Defense officials are especially concerned with China’s rare-earth-metal monopoly as rare earths are instrumental in developing military technologies such as avionic displays, laser-targeting and range-finding systems, and night-vision goggles.

Rare earth elements are also used to develop permanent magnets for actuators and motors in military systems such as jet-fighter engines, smart bombs, steer missiles, and satellite and radar communications.

A February 2021 executive order from President Joe Biden directed the U.S. Department of Defense and other agencies to evaluate potential vulnerabilities to critical supply chains such as rare earth elements. Following the order, the DOD spent more than $100 million in initiatives, investments and grants designed to shore up the nation’s access to rare earth metals.

This February, MP Materials received a $35 million award to build a facility in California’s Mountain Pass mine to mine and process rare-earth-metal ore. The plant at Mountain Pass was the last significant rare-earth processing facility in the U.S., but it shut down in the 1990s. This facility and other similar plants across the country are expected to start construction and begin operations over the next few years.

With tensions between the U.S. and China rising amid a mounting economic war, such facilities would allow America to chip away at China’s rare-earth-metal monopoly and fortify the domestic supply chain against external factors.

In the meantime, western officials are working to figure out the potential ecological consequences of large-scale, rare-earth processing. The strides being made by enterprises such as Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (TSX.V: UCU) (OTCQX: UURAF) offer practical case studies of how much progress western countries can make if they focus on nurturing domestic supply chains instead of relying on imports of the needed critical metals.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (TSX.V: UCU) (OTCQX: UURAF) are available in the company’s newsroom at http://ibn.fm/UURAF

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