Domestic mining of antimony is key to U.S. defense and its economy

The strength of a nation is determined by an array of factors: Honesty in global engagements, sharing ideas, finding compromise without loss of identity, unequivocal leadership, developing and nurturing global partnerships, economic largesse, military readiness, predictability under stress, and magnanimity.

Once established, strength diminishes unless it’s applied. Applying strength when it’s necessary — not just when it’s conveniently needed — can only be sustained by reliable access to resources required to power its economy and military. The United States, as an unquestioned global superpower, has long excelled in this — a source of strength that has only grown over the last decade as domestic energy production has surged.

The strategic significance of the United States’ emerging energy dominance is difficult to overstate. Growth in both traditional and renewable energy production enables us to rely less on foreign trading partners, to insulate ourselves from global price and supply volatility, and advance our geopolitical goals. Simultaneously, however, our nation has grown weaker, almost anemic, regarding strategic supply chains.

Critical minerals such as antimony are the building blocks of our modern economy and play an indispensable role in everything from consumer electronics and renewable energy to petroleum refining and the chemical industry.

Thanks to its fire-retardant properties, antimony is used in nearly all plastics and paints, and its anti-corrosion properties strengthen everything from batteries and wind turbines to ships and nuclear energy facilities. It also helps with the clarity of glass and is essential to production of solar panels, computer screens and smartphones.

These are important applications, but this mineral’s role reaches beyond consumer goods and industrial production. Antimony is also vital to our military’s effectiveness and has been since it was labeled as crucial to the war effort during World War II. Antimony is a key ingredient in communication equipment, night vision goggles, explosives, ammunition, nuclear weapons, submarines, warships, optics, laser sighting, and much more.

Yet, despite holding extensive domestic reserves, the United States is 100 percent dependent on imports of antimony. This is a grievous self-inflicted strategic wound not only of geography but also of today’s volatile trade landscape, creating dependence often on adversarial foreign powers.

China is currently the world’s leading producer of antimony, and the United States meets most of its antimony needs through Chinese imports. History — along with today’s trade headlines — demonstrates the risk inherent to this dynamic.

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