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Lummis Looks To Innovation Bill To Support Rare Earth Mineral Research

Rare earth minerals from Baotou, Geology exhibition in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China
Creative Commons/Wikipedia

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) is looking to a bipartisan innovation bill, the Endless Frontiers Act, to expand research into critical and rare earth element mining, resources used widely in military and civilian industries.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation approved a modified version of the act including Lummis' amendment that would ensure grant funds went to research to increase critical and rare earth elements mining. It would qualify as an initiative under the National Science Foundation, if passed.

Wyoming leaders and the University of Wyoming have highlighted the potential of the rare earth mineral industry within the state. Recently, the U.S. Energy Department invested $3 million in rare earth research in Wyoming.

The proposed Endless Frontiers Act includes expansive investment into scientific and technical innovation considered vital to solving the world's biggest challenges including climate, health and computing. Bill sponsors said it's also intended to increase competitiveness with China.

"Right now, the Chinese Communist Party is emphasizing to the world that the United States is a divided nation. This is a rare opportunity to show the authoritarians in Beijing, and the rest of the world, that when it comes to our national security, and most importantly our China policy, we are united. The Endless Frontier Act is our path forward," said U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), another bill sponsor, said the act is key to preserving America's position on the world stage as a technological leader.

Lummis highlighted Wyoming's potential in the rare earth mineral supply chain, adding new investment could reduce the country's dependence on China for the resources. 

“The United States, and Wyoming in particular, is home to a wealth of rare earth minerals. These minerals are essential to the technologies we rely on every day, including our smartphones. Currently, America depends on China for about 80 percent of our rare earth mineral needs, but we can produce those here at home and reduce our reliance on China. Wyoming is ready and willing to lead in this effort to bring our rare earth mineral production home," she said in a statement.

Her amendment did not come under discussion in the committee's executive session. The Endless Frontier Act will next face consideration on the Senate Floor.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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