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Critical Minerals in the Arctic: Forging the Path Forward

Critical materials play a vital role in powering modern technologies, from renewable energy systems and electric vehicles to advanced electronics and national defense. However, the United States faces challenges in securing a reliable supply of these materials, which are essential for its economic competitiveness and national security. These materials include metals such as lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements, and graphite. They are essential for the manufacturing of high-tech products like batteries, semiconductors, magnets, and catalysts. With the increasing demand for electric vehicles, renewable energy systems, and advanced electronics, the United States heavily relies on critical materials to drive innovation and maintain its global economic competitiveness.

The United States faces several challenges in securing a stable supply of critical materials. One major challenge is the concentration of production in a few countries, primarily China. China dominates the global supply chain of critical materials, accounting for a significant share of mining, processing, and refining capacity. This dependency raises concerns about supply disruptions, geopolitical risks, and market manipulation.

This problem is complex requiring a multi-pronged approach to develop the best path forward. Attention from multiple agencies with private sector involvement is needed to address issues including resource definition, recovery technology development, recycling technologies, international relations, supply chain resilience and improvements and, domestic resource development policies. A successful outcome will necessitate a diverse approach, strong collaborations, exchange of information and practices, and perhaps most importantly, persistence.

Ensuring a reliable and sustainable supply of these materials is essential for the country's economic growth, technological advancement, and national security. By investing in domestic production, promoting responsible sourcing, and fostering international collaborations, the United States aims to strengthen its critical materials supply chains. These efforts will contribute to a more resilient and secure future, enabling the United States to maintain its position as a global leader in innovation and technology.

This overview explores the issue of critical materials supply chains in the United States, examining the importance of these materials, the challenges associated with their supply, efforts being made to address the issue, and research avenues.

Polar Institute

Since its inception in 2017, the Polar Institute has become a premier forum for discussion and policy analysis of Arctic and Antarctic issues, and is known in Washington, DC and elsewhere as the Arctic Public Square. The Institute holistically studies the central policy issues facing these regions—with an emphasis on Arctic governance, climate change, economic development, scientific research, security, and Indigenous communities—and communicates trusted analysis to policymakers and other stakeholders.  Read more