Washington wants to build up its domestic rare-earths supply chain, but the company it’s tapping to help has a big China footprint.
The Pentagon announced an award of nearly $95 million to a company named E-VAC Magnetics.
Rare earth magnets power electric vehicles, wind turbines, and smartphones and they’re critical for both military and industrial uses.
America’s dependency on Chinese imports for them has been deemed a national security threat, so the goal is to make them in the U.S..
Reacting to the Pentagon’s E-VAC investment, the head of a major United States mineral company described the move as “historic” after a major maker of advanced magnets in the U.S. was sold and moved to China decades ago.
E-VAC is part of a German company that produces the largest rare earth magnets in the West, but it’s deeply exposed to China.
A quarter of its employees work there and it has a big production plant in the country.
It also owns 49 percent of a Chinese joint venture with China’s largest state-owned rare earth manufacturer and the state manufacturer’s controlling shareholder sits directly under the State Council—China’s lawmaking cabinet.