Rare Earths to Develop Defense Projects

Rare earth minerals or elements, a group of 17 different metals, are critical to defense, and can be found in lasers, precision-guided weapons, fuel cells, magnets for motors and other devices. That’s why the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created the Environmental Microbes as a BioEngineering Resource (EMBER) program to secure the rare earth elements supply chain in the U.S.

But, to secure supply chains, EMBER needs a source. Western Rare Earths recently announced it is providing feedstocks, mineralized rocks or ore, to multiple research teams applying for funding through EMBER.  The company’s Wyoming and Arizona sourced feedstocks meet the unique requirements of the EMBER program; also providing access to all 17 metals, including the fifteen noted on the US Critical Materials list as having the highest supply chain risk.

The goal is to advance multiple new “biomining” processes. DARPA and Western Rare Earths share a desire for more environmentally friendly methods than those currently used by competing countries like China. Onshoring this supply chain, and thousands of jobs with it, will allow the U.S. to lessen its dependence on China while safeguarding our environmental values. Considering an F-35 Strike Fighter requires 920 pounds of rare earth material and a SSN 774 Virginia class submarine needs 9,200 pounds, the U.S. needs to build its domestic supply chains for these critical minerals to secure our national defense.