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An Early Christmas Present? New Executive Order Calls for National Strategy to Increase Domestic Resource Development

Only one day after USGS released its new report “Critical Minerals of the United States” – a study which underscores the United States’ over-reliance on foreign minerals – a new executive order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to publish within 60 days a list of critical minerals to be followed by a report (after another 120 days) outlining:

(i)    a strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on critical minerals;

(ii)   an assessment of progress toward developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies, and technological alternatives to critical minerals;

(iii)  options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners;

(iv)   a plan to improve the topographic, geologic, and geophysical mapping of the United States and make the resulting data and metadata electronically accessible, to the extent permitted by law and subject to appropriate limitations for purposes of privacy and security, to support private sector mineral exploration of critical minerals; and

(v)    recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes related to developing leases; enhancing access to critical mineral resources; and increasing discovery, production, and domestic refining of critical minerals.

The order caps off a year in which we have seen several relevant, but, in the grand scheme of things, small positive developments in various mineral resource policy areas, all of which we considered progress. However they still lacked a clear overarching strategic vision. Once implemented, the order could help change that.

Said ARPN principal Dan McGroarty:

“The Executive Order is a welcome sign that the U.S. Government is ready to take a strategic approach on the issue of critical metals and minerals, and the dangers of our deep dependency on foreign-sourced supply.

We’ve had years of studies ringing alarm bells in the night, and [this week’s] USGS report drives home the point:  It is time to establish a list of strategic and critical minerals based on their importance to the national economy and national security – and develop a comprehensive federal action plan to encourage domestic resource production, through mining, recycling and reclamation.”

The USGS list of 23 critical minerals released earlier this week as part of the agency’s Professional Paper 1802, which effectively updates a 1973 landmark report, contains several materials ARPN has frequently as part of our informational campaign to highlight the importance of “Co-Product Metals and Minerals” –  i.e. materials that are generally not mined as stand-alone metals but are mostly “unlocked” in the refining process of their “Gateway Metals.”

As the Department of the Interior, along with other agencies develops its resource strategy, it would be well advised to incorporate ways to harness the interrelationship between Gateway Metals – which include mainstay metals like Copper, Aluminum, Nickel, Tin and Zinc  – and their Co-Products, many of which are increasingly becoming the building blocks of 21st Century technology.

With the executive order, supported by several other positive developments we outlined here, the stage is set for meaningful mineral resource policy reform.

Here’s hoping the momentum that has been building carries over into 2018. Our national security and economic wellbeing depends on it.