Now that the Trump Administration has declared a policy to reduce dependency on foreign sources for critical minerals, how will the Administration go about achieving its stated objective? What legal consequences—including in the areas of national security, trade, anti-corruption, and environmental law—might flow? Our multi-disciplinary panel will discuss the science and practical importance of “critical minerals,” recent and potential U.S. legal and policy developments, and the potential impacts of U.S. actions on minerals on manufacturing, supply chains, and the markets.
Against the Trump Administration's ideological backdrop, a range of conventional and unconventional trade, economic and other measures have been and likely will continue to be taken on "national security" grounds, including domestically. These include measures to increase domestic production of "critical minerals" (among them rare earth elements)--essential to the production of consumer electronics, electric vehicles, defense articles, medical devices, and other manufactured articles. Such actions can be seen on the horizon, if one connects the dots between national security authorities under trade laws, the Administration’s stated goals and actions favoring increased domestic mining of critical minerals, and environmental laws that contain national security/national defense exceptions and are viewed by the Administration and extractives industry interests as prohibitive to domestic production of critical minerals and commercially viable terms.
At this point, one or few reported new incidents of cobalt (or other critical minerals) thefts/security risks are insufficient to make any reasonable predictions as to what action would be reasonable. However, news of such incidents should be closely monitored by suppliers/exporters, buyers/importers, finance intermediaries, and logistics services providers. Related storage, transit and insurance practices and terms should be noted for review if and when circumstances appear to warrant such action.