American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • China’s Saber-Rattling over Rare Earths Card Getting Louder

    After months of rumblings, it appears that China is gearing up to play its “rare earths card” again.

    Citing people involved in a government consultation, the Financial Times reports that Beijing is gauging exactly how badly companies in the United States and Europe, including U.S. defense contractors, would be affected by plans to restrict exports of rare earth elements.

    According to Chinese media, REE exports had already dropped by more than 20 percent following the passage of a new broad export control law restricting sales of items relating to Chinese national security that went into effect on December 1, 2020. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has since proposed more specific language to impose controls on REE production and exports.

    The development ties into the overall context of a deterioration of Chinese-American diplomatic and trade relations against the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the buildout of 5G technology having emerged as a new frontier in the deepening tech war between the two global players.

    With China controlling more than 70% of global REE output, the specter of China weaponizing its position — yet again — is a serious threat to our national security and economic wellbeing. This is especially true when one considers that, while crucial, rare earths are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when considering our overall critical mineral resource dependencies — a fact for which USGS has just provided the annual reminder with the release of its Mineral Commodity Summaries 2021, which lists China 24 times as one of the major import sources of metals and minerals for which our net import reliance is 50% or greater.

    2020 has underscored the urgency of shoring up our domestic critical mineral resource supply chains, and has yielded important progress with regards to policies aimed at reducing our over-reliance on foreign, and especially Chinese metals and minerals.

    While the Biden Administration is — understandably — reviewing the preceding Administration’s policies, it is important that stakeholders realize that we can’t admire the problem anymore. We don’t have the luxury of time.

  • The Rise of the Urban Mine — Reconciling Resource Supply Needs and Sustainability

    The new Biden Administration has made clear that addressing the issue of climate change is a key priority for the next four years, and a flurry of first-week executive orders leave no doubt that the Administration intends to double down on the President’s ambitious goal to make the United States carbon neutral by 2050.

    As we previously pointed out, the emphasis on shifting towards a lower carbon future will not only have to be reconciled with the fact that the “future energy system will be far more mineral and metal-intensive than it is today,” but also with the growing realization that as we push to reduce greenhouse gases, we can’t ignore the geopolitical challenges associated with the supply chains for the metals and minerals underpinning the green energy shift — a realization the urgency of which the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced.

    In light of these challenges, the mineral resource sector has been stepping up its efforts to pursue closed-loop solutions that prioritize recycling, reclamation and sustainability.

    The concept of a circular economy, into which these closed-loop solutions are tied is a system which thrives on sustainability and focuses mainly on refining design production and recycling to ensure that little to no waste results. The concept itself is not new, but with technological advances and against the backdrop of an increasingly interconnected world, it has gained traction in recent years.

    Thankfully, from a critical mineral resource supply perspective, the properties of many metals and minerals make them ideal candidates for urban mining, a key part of the circular economy.

    The Fraunhofer ISI, a German research organization, recently released a paper on “The Promise and Limits of Urban Mining,” which, if you’re looking for a refresher on the concept and its current manifestations, is well worth a read. According to the Institute, “Urban Mining aims to manage and use these materials as a source of raw material supply, utilizing not only the waste of today but also anticipating and capturing the value contained in the waste of tomorrow. Urban Mining is an important part of the Circular Economy and provides a degree of independence from natural resources, increasing supply security.”

    We recently outlined a series of initiatives in the critical mineral resource sector harnessing technological advances to pursue closed-loop solutions, and the list continues to grow as the industry increasingly recognizes its responsibility to fulfill supply needs while meeting the growing sustainability expectations of consumers, society and governments.

    While we are still a long ways away from squaring the circle, expect the Urban Mine to play a greater role in the years to come, and we will continue to feature initiatives and projects on our blog going forward.

  • Amidst Big Policy Shifts, Signs for Continued Emphasis on Securing Critical Mineral Supply Chains at DoE

    Parents of young children will know: Transitions are hard. And what is true for toddlers, is also true for government. Observers of the critical mineral resource realm have been closely monitoring the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. There were early indications that, unlike some other areas, the critical mineral resource realm [...]
  • USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries: Mineral Resource Dependencies Continue in 2020

    2020 may go down in history as the year in which our world changed drastically, but one thing remained largely steady, according to the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, one of our favorite reports which is hot off the press: Our nation’s mineral resource dependencies. However, as followers of ARPN will know, that is hardly [...]
  • Critical Mineral Developments Continue in the Waning Days of 2020 — and Into the Early Days of the New Year

    If you’ve read our Year in Review post last month, you know 2020 was a busy year on the mineral resource policy front — so much so that even the last few days of December had several important developments. Most notably, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. While most of the media’s attention [...]
  • 2020 – A Watershed Year for Resource Policy

    ARPN’s Year in Review — a Cursory Review of the United States’ Critical Mineral Resource Challenge in 2020 It feels like just a few weeks ago many of us quipped that April 2020 seemed like the longest month in history, yet here we are: It’s mid-December, and we have almost made it through 2020. It’s [...]
  • U.S. Senator and AK Governor for The Hill: With China Having Taken Control of Critical Mineral Supply Chains, We Need to Act Now

    Beijing’s threat to withhold potentially life-saving medical supplies and medications in the middle of a global pandemic, during which China has “taken control of [respective] supply chains around the world as part of its quest for global domination,” were a wake up call, write U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) in [...]
  • China’s New Export Control Legislation Raises Specter of REE Ban

    Three weeks ago, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring a critical minerals national emergency aimed at expanding domestic production of rare-earth and other critical minerals in an effort to reduce dependence on China. Among other things, the order directs the Department of the Interior to explore the application of the Defense Production [...]
  • Panel Discussion: Stakeholders from Across the Political Aisle Agree Time to Secure Critical Mineral Supply Chains is Now

    At last week’s RealClearPolitics panel discussion sponsored by the National Mining Association, speakers discussed the extent of our nation’s critical mineral resource supply chain challenges. During the first panel, U.S. Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and Guy Reschenthaler (R-Penn.), who recently launched the bi-partisan Critical Materials Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, made the case [...]
  • Critical Minerals and the Defense Industrial Base: Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Subcommittee

    Hours after President Donald Trump issued a new executive order declaring a national emergency on critical minerals, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support received testimony from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord on the integrity of America’s critical minerals supply chains. Kicking off the hearing, [...]