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As Resource Dependence Deepens, Miners Pivot Back to U.S. For Exploration

Against the backdrop of market prices recovering and supply woes looming, mining companies are expected to increase spending on exploration for the first time in five years, reports news agency Reuters.

In what may spell good news for the United States, analysts anticipate the biggest expenditure increases to occur in the United States, Canada and Australia, all of which are considered “safe bets” due to lower operating risks and high technology standards.  Providing a private sector viewpoint, Stephen McIntosh, group executive for growth and innovation at Rio Tinto, says:

At quiet periods in the cycle, we will typically press out into non-OECD countries (…) But at the moment, we’re focusing on the OECD, predominately the Americas, and predominately for copper.

The development comes at a critical time when U.S. mineral resource dependencies are deepening, as the USGS’s just-released Mineral Commodity Summaries report shows.   And while for Copper (which is one of the main metals discussed in the Reuters piece) our overall dependence may have slightly dropped, demand is likely to grow significantly — due to increased infrastructure and clean tech investments (both areas in which Copper is becoming increasingly indispensible), and because of its status as a Gateway Metal (to scarce specialty metals like Rhenium, Selenium, Tellurium, Cobalt and in some instances the Rare Earths).

While Reuters reports on these developments largely from a market perspective, there may be policy considerations at work, here, too:

The mining industry’s pivoting back towards the United States may reflect a growing optimism that with a new Administration at the helm in Washington, DC, policies devised at creating a regulatory environment that is more conducive to responsible domestic resource development may stand a better chance.  Here’s hoping that their optimism is well founded – America’s economic well-being, as well as our competitiveness and national security would be well-served.