Critical Minerals in Bidenomics and Xiconomics


In a recent interview with InvestorIntel, Jack Lifton, a well-versed commentator on the economics of critical minerals and the co-founder of the Critical Minerals Institute, discussed his insights about the current state of the rare earth industry, the Biden administration’s approach to mineral economics, and the supply chain for critical minerals in the United States.

Lifton initially spoke about an interesting observation he made while reviewing the first quarter report of the Chinese Rare Earth Industry Association. The report praised “Xiconomics,” a term coined to represent President Xi’s plans to reduce inequality and bring prosperity to as many Chinese citizens as possible. This concept, Lifton noted, preceded the introduction of “Bidenomics” by several months. Lifton interprets the latter term as a branding exercise by the US government, assigning any positive economic outcomes to Biden’s administration and blaming any negatives on opposition forces.

According to Lifton, these economic terms suggest that White House staffers are closely observing Chinese industry updates, particularly on the rare earth industry. This observation reveals the existing divide between the military industrial complex and the civilian economy in Washington. Lifton explained that the military-industrial complex is aware of its critical minerals’ requirements, particularly those used to produce rare earth permanent magnets and computer chips. Despite large amounts of funding invested, it is claimed, into ensuring a secure supply of these resources, the outcomes so far have been lackluster.

Interestingly, he pointed out that the civilian economy, which has much larger needs for these same materials, seems to be overlooked. For instance, the civilian requirement for permanent magnets is approximately four times the military need, and for integrated circuits on chips, it’s likely ten times. However, the focus of the government seems to be on subsidizing production and manufacturing of these components rather than addressing the actual total supply chain challenges.

Lifton accused the central government in Washington of being “obsessed with celebrity” and consumed by political scandals, leaving critical economic and industry matters neglected. Hearings on such crucial matters are infrequent compared to those focused on political controversies, creating an imbalance in policy-making.

Lifton went on to voice his concerns about the lack of practical understanding among Washington policymakers. He expressed exasperation at their inability to comprehend supply chains and their lack of experience in manufacturing high-tech goods. This lack of understanding, Lifton suggests, is leading to inaccurate claims and misguided policies.

As an example, he called out Washington’s claim of reindustrialization, which seems to be happening without consideration for the critical factors such as the required workforce, raw materials, processing, and engineering. He was particularly irked by the apparent ignorance of the term “manufacturing engineering,” which is essential for scaling up production.

Lifton closed by expressing concern about the distribution of grants to people who simply use the correct buzzwords in their applications, a process that lacks organization and understanding. He pointed out the absence of an effective industrial policy in America, and the lack of understanding about the raw material sourcing to justify the building of  new factories. He ended on a rather somber note, stating that good luck might be America’s only hope in this matter.

This revealing interview has shed light on the challenges and misconceptions that exist in American policy-making, specifically when it comes to economics and industrial matters. It also underscores the urgency for policymakers to understand the criticality of an organized and well-informed approach to manage the rare earth industry and secure America’s future in this domain.

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5 responses

  1. Hugh Sharman Avatar
    Hugh Sharman

    Thanks so much, Jack! Your sense of humor is most enjoyable

    I truly wish that I could inform you and your American subscribers that we, in Europe, are/were so much more realistic about matching our highly ambitious, and electorally popular, “net zero” energy legislation, than the situation you describe!

    There is much huffing and puffing on this side of the Atlantic about the absolute necessity of delivering Global (note Global) “net zero” by 2050 and that this should (must) be delivered in Europe independently of China. But sorry to say, anything that we desire to deliver in the way of renewable electricity generating and storage equipment is and will almost certainly be made in China which, more and more must be regarding Europe as a quaint place to visit, buy “luxury” handbags and set up Chinese owned and operated manufacturing facilities!

  2. maplelegion Avatar

    G’day Jack thanks again for your extremely good interview , on the reality of the current Biden incentivisation programme . Perhaps there is an inflection point coming –when the Dept of Defence critical metals supply needs , comes into direct conflict with Private Enterprise needs ..and the ( lack 0f ) supply versus the ( overwhelming ) demand deamnd kicks in hard !
    Hard to guage from down here in Australia –but does the CHIPS ACT now unfolding , open up some new opportunities for the “co-operation ” of companies with rare earth raw materials available here in Australia , to join with USA based companies , to manufacture magnet metals and refined magnets ? Can you provide some commentary please.

  3. Jack Lifton Avatar
    Jack Lifton


    The problem with executing a total rare earth permanent magnet supply chain in Australia is that there is no Australian industrial manufacturing market for rare earth permanent magnet motors. Rare earths can be processed to strip cast alloys in Australia, but at that point the material goes to the magnet manufacturers who make and provide magnets to the motor manufacturers. Automakers prefer not to inventory expensive components, so they try to set up supplier parks or at least transfer warehousing at the sites of their assembly plants.
    No cars are made in Australia, so this model cannot be implemented there.
    Note that both Australia’s ASM and Vietnam’s VRE will send magnet alloy to the USA to be made into magnets. Neither of these existing producers of alloy plan to make magnets for export.
    If Australia wants to get into the “manufacturing” game it should encourage the domestic manufacturing of rare earth permanent magnet electric motors. Today, for cars, these all come from China.

  4. maplelegion Avatar

    Thanks for the feedback , Jack . As best as I know it , Australia’s true manufacturing industries , have basically disappeared crippled by costs and industrial laws stiffling innovation —and because of our relatively small population and geographic isolation . The days of the Victa Mowers and Hills Hoists are forgotten . A quick look at a link of the 5 most prominent Electric Motor manufacturers in Australia , indicates they are mostly multi nationals —and so in Australia , they become ‘assembly lines “at best , rather than manufacturers .
    Hopefully —and its no more than a hope ..when the likes of ASM eventually gets their Toongi ( in NSW, near major city Dubbo ) rare earth deposit into production , and uses its separation process to refine the individual rare earths ( and other industrial metals ) , there might be enough impetus for companies like Hyundai , or Posco get involved at the next level again …so it becomes a mines to motors process , rather than just a mines to metal alloys . It will take a truck load or money and incentivisation /co-operation between the Australian/ South Korean/ USA Govts to change the status quo –but , as they say , necessity is the mother of all inventions .You and your Investorintel colleagues play a tremendous role , in continually bringing these issues to front of mind , and the more this happens , the more likely there will be positive changes . ILUKA getting the $1 bill Aust Govt loan for their WA critical metals processing Plant expansion at Eneabba is at least a start . cheers

  5. Tracy Weslosky Avatar
    Tracy Weslosky

    Jack will be one of the 2 guests on this week’s Critical Mineral Institute Virtual Summit on Wednesday, August 23rd — Discover the Significance of Ionic Clays: The Critical Minerals Institute Hosts an Online Summit cc: @investor_Intel

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