On September 21, 2021, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) initiated an investigation to determine the effects on U.S. national security of imports of neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnets (sometimes referred to as neodymium magnets, neo magnets, or rare earth magnets). According to a Commerce press release, “critical national security systems rely on NdFeB permanent magnets, including fighter aircraft and missile guidance systems. In addition, NdFeB permanent magnets are essential components of critical infrastructure, including electric vehicles and wind turbines. The magnets are also used in computer hard drives, audio equipment, and MRI devices.”

This is the first Section 232 investigation initiated by President Joseph Biden’s administration and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and is consistent with the president’s directive to strengthen U.S. supply chains and encourage investments to support domestic production. (See Update of June 11, 2021, regarding 100-Day Supply Chain Review of Critical Industries).

Secretary Raimondo must present Commerce’s findings and recommendations to President Biden within 270 days, or no later than June 18, 2022. On September 27, 2021, Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a notice requesting public comments on the investigation. While the BIS is interested in any information related to this investigation, the notice also seeks the following details from any interested parties:

  • Quantity of or other circumstances related to the importation of NdFeB permanent magnets;
  • Domestic production and productive capacity needed for NdFeB permanent magnets to meet projected national defense requirements;
  • Existing and anticipated availability of human resources, products, raw materials, production equipment, and facilities to produce NdFeB permanent magnets;
  • Growth requirements of the NdFeB permanent magnet industry to meet national defense requirements and/or requirements for supplies and services necessary to assure such growth, including investment, exploration, and development;
  • The impact of foreign competition on the economic welfare of the domestic NdFeB permanent magnet industry;
  • The displacement of any domestic NdFeB permanent magnet production causing substantial unemployment, decrease in the revenues of government, loss of investment or specialized skills and productive capacity, or other serious effects;
  • Relevant factors that are causing or will cause a weakening of our national economy; and
  • Any other relevant factors, including the use and importance of NdFeB permanent magnets in critical infrastructure sectors identified in Presidential Policy Directive 21 (Feb. 12, 2013) (for a listing of those 16 sectors, see dhs.gov/cisa/critical-infrastructure-sectors).

Comments must be submitted no later than November 12, 2021 via the federal government’s eRulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov. Any submissions must be identified by docket number BIS 2021–0035 or RIN 0694–XC083. Material submitted that is marked as  containing “business confidential information”, and accepted as such by the BIS, will be exempted from public disclosure.