U.S. Administration Declares National Emergency Regarding Minerals Critical to War Economy

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on September 30 declaring a national emergency regarding the mining and metallurgical industry. A copy of the "Executive Order on Addressing the Threat to the Domestic Supply Chain from Reliance on Critical Minerals from Foreign Adversaries" was immediately sent to Congress.[1] A letter accompanied the order stating the President "issued an Executive Order declaring a national emergency to deal with the threat posed by our Nation's undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries."

In the same warmongering tone, Trump went on to say that the U.S. imperialists "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."

In the 2,700-word Executive Order, Trump takes aim at the People's Republic of China, blaming it for the present situation where the U.S. is dependent on China for rare earth elements (REEs). He sidesteps the whole issue of the imperialist world system and financial oligarchy that dominate the mining sector, profit from the exploitation of raw materials, control their world prices, and engage in fierce competition including war and preparation for war to organize global mining in ways that benefit U.S. imperialism, its war economy and particular monopolies and cartels.

The Executive Order reads:

"For 31 of the 35 critical minerals, the United States imports more than half of its annual consumption. The United States has no domestic production for 14 of the critical minerals and is completely dependent on imports to supply its demand. Whereas the United States recognizes the continued importance of cooperation on supply chain issues with international partners and allies, in many cases, the aggressive economic practices of certain non-market foreign producers of critical minerals have destroyed vital mining and manufacturing jobs in the United States.

"Our dependence on one country, the People's Republic of China (China), for multiple critical minerals is particularly concerning. The United States now imports 80 per cent of its rare earth elements directly from China, with portions of the remainder indirectly sourced from China through other countries. In the 1980s, the United States produced more of these elements than any other country in the world, but China used aggressive economic practices to strategically flood the global market for rare earth elements and displace its competitors."

To justify the declaration of a national emergency, the Executive Order repeats the argument that the United States is the indispensable nation:

"I therefore determine that our Nation's undue reliance on critical minerals, in processed or unprocessed form, from foreign adversaries constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."

The Executive Order states that since December 2017, different departments of the U.S. government have 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.'"[2]

The 35 critical minerals include, amongst others, "aluminum -- used in almost all sectors of the economy; the platinum group metals -- used for catalytic agents; rare-earth elements -- used in batteries and electronics; tin -- used as protective coatings and alloys for steel; and titanium" as well as uranium.[3]

Almost all of these minerals have military and civilian applications covering the aerospace, energy, telecommunication, electronics, and ground and marine transportation sectors. Of note is the mineral barite and the group of water-soluble potassium-containing minerals, commonly referred to as potash. Barite is singled out in the September 30 Executive Order because it plays an important role in the production of oil and gas. These two important energy commodities have been massively extracted in the U.S. through fracking and used to flood and capture world markets in the last decade. Fracked oil and gas are in part responsible for the dramatic drop in oil and gas prices witnessed in January and February of this year, even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

The Executive Order reads, "The United States also disproportionately depends on foreign sources for barite. The United States imports over 75 per cent of the barite it consumes, and over 50 per cent of its barite imports come from China. Barite is of critical importance to the hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') industry, which is vital to the energy independence of the United States."

Like barite, potash is used in fluids for oil and gas drilling. However, 85 per cent of its usage in the U.S. is in the agricultural sector as a fertilizer. Saskatchewan is the main world producer of potash and a critical supplier of potash to the U.S., which imports 90 per cent of its potash needs.


1. "Executive Order on Addressing the Threat to the Domestic Supply Chain from Reliance on Critical Minerals from Foreign Adversaries," The White House, September 30, 2020.

2. "Draft Critical Mineral List -- Summary of Methodology and Background Information -- U.S. Geological Survey Technical Input Document in Response to Secretarial Order No. 3359, Open-File Report 2018 -- 1021, U.S. Department of the Interior & U.S. Geological Survey, 2018."

3."Interior Releases 2018's Final List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy," U.S. Geological Survey, 2018.

(With files from TML; Government of Canada; White House; U.S. Department of the Interior;  Globe and Mail; Mining.com. Photos: TML)

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 40 - October 24, 2020

Article Link:
U.S. Administration Declares National Emergency Regarding Minerals Critical to War Economy


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