On June 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (“Commerce”) Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) published notice in the Federal Register of its initiation of an investigation to determine whether imports of vanadium threaten to impair the national security. According to a press release, Commerce is initiating the investigation based on a petition filed on November 19, 2019 by two U.S. producers of vanadium — AMG Vanadium LLC, and U.S. Vanadium LLC.

Vanadium is a metallic element often used as an alloying agent in the production of steel and other metals. It is used to improve the resulting metal’s hardness, ductility, and toughness. Typical end uses for vanadium-alloyed steels include armor plates, parts of jet engines, and cutting tools.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, vanadium is mined mostly in Brazil, China, Russia, and South Africa. Vanadium can also be produced through a secondary process. This source also indicates that from 2015-2018, U.S. demand was supplied 100 percent by imports.

Commerce’s notice provides interested parties with an opportunity to submit written comments and information pertaining to the investigation by July 20, 2020. Commerce is particularly interested in comments and information relating to the following criteria:

  1. The quantity and circumstances of imports of vanadium;
  2. Domestic production and capacity needed to meet projected national defense requirements;
  3. Existing and anticipated availability of human resources, products, raw materials, production equipment, and facilities to produce vanadium;
  4. Growth requirements of the vanadium industry to meet national defense requirements and/or requirements for supplies and services necessary to assure such growth including investment, exploration, and development;
  5. The impact of foreign competition on the economic welfare of the vanadium industry;
  6. The displacement of any domestic vanadium production causing substantial unemployment, decrease in the revenues of government, loss of investment or specialized skills and productive capacity, or other serious effects;
  7. Relevant factors that are causing or will cause a weakening of our national economy; and
  8. Any other relevant factors, including the use and importance of vanadium in critical infrastructure sectors.

Interested parties will also have the opportunity to submit rebuttal comments addressing issues raised in affirmative comments by August 17, 2020.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Secretary Ross will prepare a report and advise the President on whether vanadium is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security.