On June 2, 2020, Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the Department of Commerce will initiate an investigation into whether the quantities or circumstances of imports of vanadium into the United States threaten to impair U.S. national security. This investigation is the result of a petition filed by U.S. producers AMG Vanadium LLC (Cambridge, Ohio) and U.S. Vanadium LLC (Hot Springs, Arkansas).

Vanadium is a chemical element that occurs naturally in 65 minerals and in fossil fuel deposits. Approximately 85% of the vanadium produced is used as ferrovanadium or as a steel additive. It is used in the production of metal alloys and as a catalyst for chemicals across the aerospace, defense, energy, and infrastructure sectors. It is incorporated into end products such as aircraft, jet engines, ballistic missiles, energy storage, bridges, buildings and pipelines. According to Secretary Ross, “Vanadium is utilized in our national defense and critical infrastructure, and is integral to certain aerospace applications.” The petitioning U.S. producers assert that their industry is adversely affected by unfairly traded, low-priced imports, limited export markets due to value-added tax regimes in other vanadium-producing countries, and the impact of Chinese and Russian industrial policies.

As required by the statute, Secretary Ross has sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense seeking input into the investigation and will also notify other relevant executive branch officials. The investigation will be conducted by the Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which is seeking public comment until July 20, 2020. In a Federal Register notice requesting comments, BIS stated that it is particularly interested in comments and information on these issues:

  1. Quantity of, or other circumstances related to, the importation of vanadium;
  2. Domestic production and productive capacity needed for vanadium to meet projected national defense requirements;
  3. Existing and anticipated availability of human resources, products, raw materials, production equipment, and facilities to produce vanadium;
  4. Growth requirements of the vanadium industry to meet national defense requirements and/or requirements for supplies and services necessary to assure such growth including investment, exploration, and development;
  5. The impact of foreign competition on the economic welfare of the vanadium industry;
  6. The displacement of any domestic vanadium production causing substantial unemployment, decrease in the revenues of government, loss of investment or specialized skills and productive capacity, or other serious effects;
  7. Relevant factors that are causing or will cause a weakening of our national economy; and
  8. Any other relevant factors, including the use and importance of vanadium in critical infrastructure sectors identified in Presidential Policy Directive 21 (Feb. 12, 2013) (for a listing of those sectors see https://www.dhs.gov/cisa/critical-infrastructure-sectors).

Written Submissions and Public Hearing

All comments must be addressed to “Section 232 Vanadium Investigation” and filed through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov on Docket No. BIS-2020-0002. While the docket will allow users to provide comments by filling in the “Comment” field, submitters are encouraged to provide comments in an attached document, including any exhibits, annexes, or other attachments, which can be uploaded and filed as part of the submission. Submitted comments will be made available for public inspection, except information determined to be confidential. Anyone submitting business confidential information should clearly identify the business confidential portion at the time of submission, file a statement justifying nondisclosure, and file a public version.

After public comments are filed by the July 20, 2020 deadline, rebuttal comments are due no later than August 17, 2020, and must be limited to issues raised in comments filed by the July 20 deadline.

Commerce has not yet announced whether a public hearing will be held for this investigation. If such a hearing is held, a separate Federal Register notice will be issued.