U.S. And Canada Drafting Joint Plan For North American Supply Of Rare Earth Metals

U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are discussing the need to ensure reliable supplies of rare earth metals and lessen both countries reliance on China for the materials used to power computers, cell phones and other technologies.

The two leaders spoke about the issue during their last meeting, said Trudeau. A joint action plan is now being drafted by senior officials in the two countries with plans for it to be signed later this year. There are also reports that Washington, D.C. has agreed to treat Canadian companies that produce rare earth metals as "domestic suppliers," streamlining and speeding their access to the American market.

Rare earths, also called "technology metals," are a group of 17 vital elements used in missile systems, electric vehicles, computers, cell phones and other technology devices. They have been thrown into the political spotlight after China signaled that it may restrict shipments to the U.S. as a result of its ongoing trade war with the Trump administration.

Mining companies in the U.S. have been hesitant to wade back into rare earths after a 2011 price collapse, compounding the challenge of cutting that nation’s reliance on China. Fortunately, Canada is home to one-third of the world’s rare earth metals, with large deposits in Nova Scotia, Quebec and the country’s Arctic region.

Canadian companies such as Avalon Advanced Materials (TVE:AVL) and Nechalacho Rare Earth Elements are in the advanced stages of developing producing mines for rare earths such as Lithium, Cerium, Gallium and Erbium that are used in everything from solar panels and wind turbines to electric car batteries and satellites. Mines being developed are in Canada’s Northwest Territories, as well as British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

"It is in our interests to ensure that we have reliable supplies of these important minerals for technology, and it’s a conversation that our government is leading on," Trudeau told journalists on the election campaign trail. "Canada has many of the rare earth minerals that are so necessary for modern technologies."

The joint plan with the U.S. includes funding for critical metals projects and strategic investments in North American processing facilities, according to The Globe and Mail newspaper, which obtained an early draft of the plan. Senior Canadian officials have held meetings since July to discuss ways for the two countries to secure access to minerals such as Uranium, Lithium, Cesium and Cobalt.

Senior executives from leading technology companies such as Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) have also been part of the discussions with Ottawa and Washington and are reported to be pushing aggressively for the establishment of a North American supply chain of rare earth metals.