Failed policies from previous administrations undercut the American manufacturing and mining industries, putting Americans out of work and China in the driver’s seat to control the products we rely on every day for electric power, communications, internet connectivity, and national security. President Donald Trump has championed policies to bring these jobs back to the United States, and his administration is continuing to take major steps forward to ensure our rightful place in the mining, processing, and manufacturing of critical minerals.
Following President Trump’s Executive Order 13817 in 2017, the Department of the Interior produced a list of 35 minerals — including rare earth elements and other metals such as lithium, indium, tellurium, gallium, and platinum-group metals — and determined that the supply chains for these critical minerals are vital to our nation’s national security and economic vitality.
The United States used to be the leader in mineral production and processing. Now, for 31 of 35 critical minerals, the United States imports over half of its annual consumption with no domestic production at all for 14 critical minerals. Everything from solar panels to smartphones to medical devices to the military equipment our soldiers need to protect our nation require these critical minerals. For many of these minerals, China largely controls the market for mining, processing, and manufacturing.
President Trump signed an executive order and declared a national emergency on Sept. 30 to expand the domestic mining industry. Critical minerals can and should be sourced from the United States by American workers, and the Trump administration is making sure this happens. The Department of the Interior and the rest of the federal government have been directed by the president to take bold action to support the mining and processing of minerals here at home.
Through his executive order, President Trump has taken decisive action to put Americans back to work and to restore economic growth. As directed by the president, I will be working with the secretary of Defense to examine how the presidential authority that we have been delegated can be used to provide grants to procure and install equipment to produce and process critical minerals here in the United States, which would accelerate the reopening and expansion of American mines and processing plants. This program could help ensure that new technologies are invented and manufactured in America and exported around the world.
Developing our critical minerals and production capacity at home is good for national security, good for jobs, and good for the environment. American workers are up to the task of efficiently and safely supplying these minerals. The United States boasts some of the strongest protections for workers and our environment in the world, which means producing and processing critical minerals domestically will result in a lower net environmental impact.
President Trump has made it clear that we will not put American workers on the sidelines by continuing to rely on other countries, particularly after the supply-chain disruptions from foreign markets we saw at the onset of the pandemic. By Jan. 1, I will inform the president of the state of the threat posed by our nation’s reliance on critical minerals from foreign adversaries and recommend any additional actions necessary to address that threat.
American mining operations are cleaner, safer, more responsible, and more reliable for the American people and our allies, especially in comparison to operations that are controlled by Communist China. President Trump refuses to allow America to be held hostage by foreign nations that do not have our best interests at heart. His administration continues to reverse decades of bad decision-making and put America’s needs first. Ending our dangerous dependence on foreign sources for critical minerals and investing domestically in our products and natural resources encourages economic growth, creates jobs, and protects the American people — especially in Minnesota.
David L. Bernhardt is the United States Secretary of the Interior. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.