On September 30, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) declaring a national emergency to address “the threat posed by our Nation’s undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries.” In a message to Congress, the president stated that a “strong America cannot be dependent on imports from foreign adversaries for the critical minerals that are increasingly necessary to maintain our economic and military strength in the 21st century” and that the EO was issued to “reduce our vulnerability to adverse foreign government action, natural disaster, or other supply disruptions. Our national security, foreign policy, and economy require a consistent supply of each of these minerals.” The EO also declares that it is the policy of the United States to protect and expand domestic mining and processing capacity for critical minerals.

The secretary of the interior has identified 35 minerals that: (1) are “essential to the economic and national security of the United States,” (2) have supply chains that are “vulnerable to disruption,” and (3) serve “an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for our economy or our national security.” The EO indicates that for 31 of the 35 critical minerals, the United States imports more than half of its annual consumption and that the United States has no domestic production for 14 of the critical minerals. The EO states that U.S. dependence on the People’s Republic of China “for multiple critical minerals is particularly concerning,” noting that the United States currently imports 80 percent of its rare earth elements directly from China.

The EO states that undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States. The EO directs:

  • The secretary of the interior to investigate and report to the president within the next 60 days any undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries. The report is to recommend executive action, which may include the imposition of tariffs or quotas, other import restrictions against China and other non-market foreign adversaries whose economic practices threaten to undermine the health, growth and resiliency of the United States.
  • By January 1, 2021, and every 180 days thereafter, the secretary of the interior must inform the president of the state of the threat posed by reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries and recommend any additional actions necessary to address that threat.
  • That relevant U.S. agencies should prioritize the expansion and protection of the domestic supply chain for minerals and the establishment of secure critical minerals supply chains, including developing secure critical minerals supply chains; expanding and strengthening commercially viable critical minerals mining and minerals processing capabilities; and developing globally competitive, substantial, and resilient domestic commercial supply chain capabilities for critical minerals mining and processing.
  • The secretary of the interior and the secretary of defense will consider whether the authority delegated at section 306 of Executive Order 13603 of March 16, 2012 (National Defense Resources Preparedness) can be used to establish a program to provide grants to procure or install production equipment for the production and processing of critical minerals in the United States.
  • The secretary of energy will develop guidance (and, as appropriate, shall revoke, revise or replace prior guidance, including loan solicitations) clarifying the extent to which projects that support domestic supply chains for minerals are eligible for certain loan guarantees and for funding awards.
  • The secretary of the interior, the secretary of agriculture, the secretary of commerce, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the secretary of the Army are authorized to use all available authorities to accelerate the issuance of permits and the completion of projects in connection with expanding and protecting the domestic supply chain for minerals.
  • The secretary of the interior, the secretary of energy and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency will examine all available authorities of their respective agencies and identify any such authorities that could be used to accelerate and encourage the development and reuse of historic coal waste areas, material on historic mining sites, and abandoned mining sites for the recovery of critical minerals.