The United States, along with partner countries including Australia, Canada, Germany and the UK, this week announced the formation of the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), a pact that will focus on securing a steady supply of rare earth material for its members.
The MSP, which was announced during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in downtown Toronto this week, will help member countries ensure they have a reliable supply of rare earth material in the years to come, which are used to manufacture electric vehicle batteries, as well as batteries for consumer electronics.
Jose W. Fernandez, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, told The Globe and Mail the pact will “deal with the supply chain vulnerabilities that many countries have,” at the moment. As much of the globe’s finite rare earth materials are located in just a handful of countries, the pact will help streamline and simplify the supply chain for these products.
MSP members include Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Commission. Australia is among the world’s top producers of rare earth materials, exporting roughly 17,000 metric tons in 2020 – accounting for seven percent of all rare earth production that year. China leads the way in rare earth material production, exporting 140,000 metric tons in 2020.
Many countries have large rare earth reserves, but producing these materials can require complex separation and refining processes. In addition to vehicle batteries, rare earth material is also used to produce permanent magnets, including those used in electric vehicle motors, as well as catalysts, ceramics, alloys and more.
Canada is another major exporter of rare earth materials and has large deposits of in-demand materials needed for EVs, including cobalt, lithium, aluminum, tungsten and magnesium, among more. GM has partnered with a Quebec-based company called MP Materials to ensure it has a steady supply of permanent magnets for its EV motors.
“The goal of the MSP is to ensure that critical minerals are produced, processed, and recycled in a manner that supports the ability of countries to realize the full economic development benefit of their geological endowments,” the U.S. State Department said in a release this week. “Demand for critical minerals, which are essential for clean energy and other technologies, is projected to expand significantly in the coming decades.”