In the wake of the Trump administration’s ongoing trade war with China, a chemical company based just outside of San Antonio is working to expand their processing facility and become one of the first U.S. suppliers of certain rare-earth minerals.
Blue Line Corp.’s expansion is part of a joint venture with Lynas, an Australia-based rare-earth mining company. The company is planning a 550,000 square foot expansion to its facility in Hondo, Texas.
During the initial phase of expansion to rare earth mineral processing, Blue Line Corp. is expected to focus on the separation of terbium (used in solid-state devices), dysprosium (used in magnets and lasers), and other heavy rare-earth.
Reports also indicate that the facility will be able to accommodate the separation of lanthanum (used in studio lighting and projector lights) and neodymium (used in flints and lighters), as well as other light rare-earth minerals.
In a joint press release, Blue Line Corp. and Lynas said, “Rare earths separation capacity has been absent from the United States for several years, and the Lynas/Blue Line joint venture aims to fill a key gap in the United States supply chain.”
It continued, “rare earths are essential inputs to high technology, high growth industries in the digital age. The Lynas/Blue Line joint venture will help ensure that U.S. companies have continued access to rare earth products by providing a U.S.-based source.”
The expansion is expected to take two to three years, providing a possible longterm opportunity for the U.S. to begin challenging Chinese dominance over rare-earth processing. However, the timeframe could also leave U.S companies vulnerable to potential retaliatory action from China in the interim.
This past week, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, the People’s Daily, took a swing at the U.S, threatening that rare-earths may become a “counter weapon” that China will use to “hit back against the pressure” of the Trump Administration’s new and additional tariffs on many Chinese goods.
Currently, China is by far the world’s largest producer of rare-earth minerals, with a USGS report on China’s rare earth industry indicating they produce over 95 percent of the worldwide output of rare-earth minerals.
The editorial was threatening at times, calling decision-makers in the U.S. “selfish and arrogant.” It went on to say that “Washington has completely overestimated its ability to manipulate the global supply chain and lacks self-knowledge. The US is doomed to be met with a slap in the face after it wakes up and stops dreaming.”
This came just one day before the U.S. began collecting an increased 25 percent tariff on a list of goods that is 196 pages long and includes items ranging from foods to carpet, buttons, and tripods.
In response to China’s threats regarding rare-earth exports, the U.S. Department of Commerce published a 50-page report yesterday that outlined a series of measures aimed at reducing America’s reliance on China for these economically and strategically important minerals.
Part of the plan calls for boosting domestic production and processing of rare-earths.
Katie Fisher is a licensed attorney and writer with a broad range of political, private sector, and ministry experience. A California transplant, Katie earned her J.D. at the age of 21 from Oak Brook College of Law, subsequently passing the bar exam and going into private law practice. Texas became home when she moved to Houston to serve as the Deputy Director of Delegate Operations for the 2016 Cruz for President campaign. She currently resides in the Austin area with her husband and daughter.