American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • It’s Time to Make the Connection Between Critical Minerals and National Defense

    By Daniel McGroarty

    It’s a truism that technology is transforming all aspects of our lives, a fact that’s especially apt in the case of the advanced weaponry that increasingly supports the U.S.’s battlefield superiority.  It’s equally true that the metals and minerals on which U.S. weapons platforms depend are all too often sourced from foreign suppliers – a vulnerability that America’s adversaries could exploit in time of conflict.

    Until now, however, awareness of the problem has not produced action anywhere near adequate to reduce this dangerous dependency.

    That could change today, as a group of House members move to add comprehensive critical minerals reform language to the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act, scheduled for floor debate in a matter of hours.

    The language is drawn from a bill backed by Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV). And while the path to passage may be new, the bill is anything but, having passed the House five times in recent years, only to stall in the Senate.  It would set clear and consistent deadlines for a federal mine permitting process that has grown maddeningly opaque, resulting in a permitting odyssey  that stretches an average of 7 to 10 years and oftentimes even longer.  Indeed, the only thing longer than the American permitting process is the list of metals and minerals we need for our weapons systems.

    As the House debate grinds into gear, expect objections that adding a mining-related provision to the NDAA is improper, non-germane to use the parliamentary term.

    That’s wrong.  In fact, one might argue that ensuring that the U.S. does all it can to ensure the reliable domestic supply of defense-critical metals and minerals is about as germane to the NDAA as it gets.

    According to the most recent US Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summary, the U.S. is 100% dependent on foreign supply for 20 metals and minerals, and 50% or more dependent for a total of 43 metals and minerals.  That’s nearly half of the naturally-occurring elements on the Periodic Table.

    That deep and wide dependency is the catalyst for the President’s Executive Order on Critical Minerals, issued in December 2017, which has just produced the first unified Critical Minerals List, prepared by the Department of interior in coordination with the Department of Defense.

    Consider it Exhibit A in the argument for adding Critical Minerals provisions in the NDAA.  The case for inclusion is strong:

    16 of the 35 Critical Minerals appear in a non-classified defense study as “hav[ing] already caused some kind of significant weapon system production delay  for DoD.”

    For 22 of the 35 listed minerals, China is either the leading global producer, leading U.S. supplier – or both.

    All of this at the precise moment that we’re seeing headlines like this one in the defense press:  “The US is running out of bombs — and it may soon struggle to make more.”  The story notes that in the case of many key materials, “…key suppliers are foreign-owned, with no indigenous [U.S.] capability to produce vital parts and materials.”

    Connect the dots, and it’s clear that the U.S. lacks reliable access to a wide range of metals and minerals critical to our military’s advanced weapons platforms – materials that in nearly two-dozen cases, we are sourcing from China, a nation that the 2017 U.S. National Defense Strategy identifies as presenting “the central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.”

    That’s a five alarm fire bell when it comes to strengthening the raw materials supply chain in the U.S. Defense Industrial Base, and it’s all the reason Congress needs to include critical minerals language in the National Defense Authorization Act.

    One last observation, given the dire situation the U.S. is in.  The U.S. has known resources of nearly all of the 35 minerals and metals on the Critical List.  Whether those resources can be economically developed is an open question – one that the private sector, and private capital, will be ready and willing to answer, once the U.S. Government sends a clear, consistent signal that it is serious about remedying our deep dependency on foreign-sourced critical minerals.

  • Stakeholders and Experts Weigh in on DOI’s Finalized Critical Minerals List 

    Last week, the Department of the Interior released its finalized Critical Mineral list. In spite of calls to include various additional metals and minerals (see ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty’s public comments on the issue here) DOI decided to stick with its pool of 35 minerals deemed critical from a national security perspective.

    “With the list completed, the executive order now gives Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross 180 days to submit a strategy to reduce that reliance. The report will explore various options: increased trade with allies, recycling and reprocessing technology, and potential alternative materials to replace critical minerals,” writes Greenwire reporter Dylan Brown, who gathered early stakeholder and expert feedback for a piece published on Friday (subscription).

    Brown says that Commerce Secretary Wilbur’s report will, among other issues, zero in on what he calls the “No. 1 policy debate between the mining industry and environmentalists, and their Republican and Democratic allies in Congress” – the debate over how to reform the United States’ permitting framework for mining projects.

    Brown quotes National Mining Association spokeswoman Caitlin Musseman, who said:

    “More than a complex listing process, we need a simplified and efficient permitting system that unlocks the value of all our domestic mineral resources,” and argues that the list does not go far enough because of DOI’s “narrow view of criticality.”

    The piece also quotes ARPN’s Dan McGroarty, who, citing the example of Copper, underscored the importance and interrelationship of Gateway Metals and their Co-Products:

    “American Resources Policy Network President Daniel McGroarty pointed to copper, a ‘gateway’ to five minerals on the critical list.

    ‘The U.S. has a 600,000-metric-ton copper gap each year — the gap between what we consume and what we produce,’ he said. ‘The critical minerals list is a great starting point. The question now is how the U.S. government can match policy to the priority of overcoming our critical minerals deficit.”

    In the coming months, policymakers have the opportunity to shape mineral resource policy for the better – and to create a framework conducive to safely and efficiently harnessing our mineral resource potential to ensure our national security and competitiveness going forward.

    Here’s hoping they seize the momentum the recent increased focus on ‘critical minerals’ has generated.

  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty Comments on DOI’s Release of Final Critical Minerals List

    The Department of the Interior released its final list of Critical Minerals today. The following is ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty’s statement on the list: “DOI issued its final list of Critical Minerals, unchanged at 35.  What we see is the degree of US dependency – the US is 100% import-dependent for 14 of the 35 (…) more

  • USGS Scholars Provide Insights into Resource Interdependency and Conflict Potential in New Study

    The advances in materials science have been fundamentally transforming the way we look at metals and minerals – both from a usage, as well as a supply and demand perspective.  With that, the nature of potential resource conflict has also changed. As USGS National Minerals Information Center scholars Andrew L. Gulleya, Nedal T. Nassar,  and (…) more

  • Coalition of Congressional Members and Stakeholders Call on EPA to Reverse Pre-emptive Veto and Restore Due Process to U.S. Mine Permitting  

    Earlier this month, the Congressional Western Caucus led a coalition of Members of Congress and Stakeholders to call on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reverse a pre-emptive veto of the Pebble Mine project in Alaska. The veto stopped the project before it had formally applied to begin the permitting process — a unilateral expansion of (…) more

  • Copper Gap Looms as Demand for EV Tech Continues to Surge

    While just a few short years ago, Rare Earth Element coverage dominated non-fuel mineral resource news cycles, it is the metals and minerals that fuel electric vehicle and battery technology that are making headlines these days. Here, the spotlight has been on Cobalt, Lithium, and, to a lesser extent, Nickel and associated supply and demand (…) more

  • Congressional Western Caucus Members Call for Expansion of Critical Minerals List

    Earlier this month, members of the Congressional Western Caucus sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and Acting Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Mary Neumayr calling for the inclusion of additional metals and minerals into the draft critical minerals list released by Secretary Zinke (…) more

  • Road to Regulatory Reform – NMA-Commissioned Poll Shows Voters in Favor of Domestic Mining Permitting Reforms

    Advances in materials science are altering and expanding the ways in which we use metals and minerals at neck-breaking speeds, and are drastically changing the supply and demand picture.  The United States was significantly less dependent on foreign supplies of metals and minerals in the 1970s — but today, we find ourselves import-reliant for scores (…) more

  • “Critical Minerals Alaska” – North of 60 Mining News Publishes Series on Alaska’s Resource Potential

    Against the backdrop of an increased focus on critical minerals at the federal level, North of 60 Mining News — an Alaska-based trade publication covering mineral resource issues for Alaska, northern British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut — has started a new series of articles ARPN followers may wish to bookmark. As Lasley pointed (…) more

  • Road to Regulatory Reform – ARPN Launches New Effort to Promote Regulatory Reform in the Non-Fuel Mineral Resource Sector

    Since its inception, ARPN has advocated for more robust domestic resource development. The U.S. mine permitting process has long inhibited domestic development, and has exacerbated U.S. dependence on foreign metals and mineral supplies.  As the pace of technological change accelerates, driven by advances in materials science, these ever-deepening resource dependencies are weakening the U.S. economy (…) more