The coronavirus crisis shines a light on the United States’ supply chain vulnerabilities for rare earths

With every day seemingly revealing a tragic new milestone in the global struggle against COVID-19, it is hard to think more than a few days ahead. The past few weeks and months have scarred the entire world. Our present time is aptly described by Vladimir Lenin’s characterization that “there are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.”

And yet, planning for the future will soon be a necessary exercise. One of the facets that will need to be examined is the reality that the United States lacks the domestic supply chain necessary to rapidly-produce many of the essential materials—low-tech and high-tech alike—that are needed during this crisis. Past thinking focused on the ability to address idiosyncratic disruptions—political crises in certain countries, or localized natural disasters— via an efficient, globally distributed supply chain; when the risk is manifested as a global phenomenon, however, this brittle arrangement proves very costly. As we overcome this dramatic shock, Washington will need to determine which supply chains and resources must be hardened, diversified, or “onshored.”

One key category that will be part of this discussion will be rare earth elements (REEs).

Rainbow Rare Earths Ltd (LON:RBW) is a mining company focussed on production from, and expansion of, the high grade Gakara Rare Earth Project in Burundi, East Africa. With in-situ grades in the range of 47-67% Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO), Gakara is one of the world’s richest rare earth deposits.

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