Lawmakers urge Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to address Chinese seabed mining

The representatives say China services most of the world’s processing capabilities to develop the materials into products “crucial to U.S. weapons systems.”

Published: December 10, 2023 10:47pm

(The Center Square) -

The U.S. Department of Defense is being urged by members of Congress to develop a national security plan to address China’s interest and investments in seabed mining.

Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, led over two dozen legislators including fellow Virginia Rep. Jen Kiggans in sounding the alarm on China’s involvement in mining critical resources, such as nickel, cobalt, lithium, manganese and zinc from the seabed.

In a letter addressed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the representatives urge the Pentagon to address the “national security ramifications of the Chinese Communist Party’s” investment and interest in seabed mining, which they say China dominates up to 95% of the global supply chains for most critical mineral resources.

In addition, the representatives say China services most of the world’s processing capabilities to develop the materials into products “crucial to U.S. weapons systems.”

The group of lawmakers also cited China’s environmental and human rights violations in control of the market.

“Beijing’s control of this market is built on environmental and human rights violations – including attacks against grassroots leaders, water pollution, ecosystem destruction, and unsafe working conditions – not only in China but in the countries from which China sources raw materials,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers underscored concerns over the country’s ability to take advantage of the seabed resources.

“We cannot afford to allow China to capture and exploit seabed resources, which the CCP has characterized as ‘a new frontier for international competition,’” the lawmakers wrote. “We must explore every avenue to strengthen our rare earth and critical minerals supply chains.”

The representatives stressed concern over China controlling a vital market, and encouraging the Department of Defense to enlist assistance from allies and partners to ensure access to natural resources in the seabed.

The letter cited a November announcement from China that it plans to tighten export controls on the minerals, including compounds and alloys.

“This action is just the latest in a series of efforts from the CCP to further dominate crucial supply chains this year,” the representatives wrote.

“We cannot afford to cede another critical mineral resource to China,” the lawmakers added. “The United States, and specifically, the Department of Defense, should be engaging with allies, partners, and industry to ensure that China does not seize unfettered control of deep-sea assets.”

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