WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 (Reuters) – The Biden administration will investigate potential national security risks from over-reliance on imports of certain magnets used in fighter jets and missile guidance systems as part of a review of the global supply chain, the Commerce Department said on Friday.
Neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnets are used in a variety of other equipment, including electric vehicles, wind turbines, computer hard drives, audio equipment and MRI machines, he added.
NdFeB magnets are a type of rare earth magnet that is essential for making weapons, including Javelin missiles made by Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N).
Almost all of the world production of these specialized magnets takes place in China. The United States has long ceded its position as the world’s largest manufacturer of magnets, even though a scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory invented them in the early 1980s.
Reuters reported in late 2019 that the Pentagon had sought proposals to cache a rotating six-month supply of NdFeB magnets. The move was criticized at the time for failing to offer financial support for the manufacture of NdFeB magnets, which analysts and industry executives saw as a short-sighted misstep.
The Pentagon has funded some rare earth mining projects in the United States, including one in California operated by MP Materials Inc (MP.N).
MP relies on China for final processing of its rare earths, but said it is working on full processing at its mine and possibly manufacturing rare earth magnets in the United States.
The Las Vegas-based company said it was “eager to participate” in the Commerce Department review and “deeply believes that private entities in the United States can be commercially successful (rare earths ) “.
A bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives last month would extend tax credits to companies that produce rare earth magnets in the country. Read more
The Commerce Department has requested that public comments on the investigation be submitted until November 21 and has until June 18 to notify President Joe Biden if he finds out that “the magnets are being imported into the United States in in such quantities or under such circumstances threatening to endanger national security. “
He said the magnetic probe is the first of its kind launched under the Biden administration, which launched a general supply chain review to address bottlenecks affecting many industries, including transportation, logistics , building materials and housing. Read more
US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement that the investigation would help “determine whether the United States’ dependence on imports of this essential commodity is a threat to our national security.”
Reporting by Susan Heavey, David Shepardson, Ernest Scheyder and Mike Stone; Editing by Chris Reese and Aurora Ellis
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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