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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Critical Materials Institute Head Puts Apple’s Goal to Stop Mining in Context

    Recently, tech giant Apple made a bit of a splash with the announcement of a lofty sustainability goal — one the company itself is not sure how to achieve yet.

    Kicking off its new Environmental Responsibility Report with the question “Can we one day stop mining the Earth altogether?,” Apple commits itself to working towards a “closed-loop supply chain, where products are built using only renewable resources or recycled material.”

    However, while Apple currently boasts some of the most robust and rigorous sustainability and recycling programs in the entire tech sector, “the goal of a mining-free iPhone is not only far off; at the moment, it’s scientifically impossible,” writes Jason Koebler for Motherboard.  Scientific confirmation of that statement comes from someone who would know: Alex King, director of the Critical Materials Institute at the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.

     King, while giving the company credit for making a “noble promise” setting a real “‘stretch goal’ for the company,” points out that while recycling aluminum is easy, the same cannot be said for some of the other materials that make up the iPhone:

    “The current iPhone models use somewhere around 60 or 65 distinct chemical elements, most of which are not recycled at all today and only come from mines.”

    Citing the example of Neodymium — which is used in the iPhone’s speakers and has so far only been recycled in miniscule quantities in research studies rather than on a bigger scale — Benjamin Sprecher, a researcher at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands focused on REE recycling agrees, arguing that “there is no recycling infrastructure in place to produce some of these metals on the scale that Apple requires.”

    Another challenge associated with a “closed loop supply chain” is the question of where materials will come from, if they’re not mined, as, in the words of Alex King,  “[t]hey will certainly not be able to make new iPhones just by recycling the materials in old iPhones. Their recycled materials will most likely come from other kinds of post-consumer scrap.”

    Meanwhile, Apple’s announcement is strategically smart, says Kyle Wiens, CEO for iFixit, precisely because it is ambitious yet vague and has no specific timeline: “It’s 100 percent unattainable today, but it’s a goal that lets them claim progress toward it without proving anything to the rest of us, because it’s a metric that’s independently unverifiable.”

    For the time being, however, with Apple’s promise currently being no more meaningful than say, SpaceX hopes to eventually colonize Mars,” as Koebler bluntly phrases it, policy makers should work towards creating a policy framework that fosters both recycling as well as the responsible harnessing of mineral resources we need today and will increasingly rely on in the future.

  • North Korean Brinkmanship Highlights Nexus Between Resource Policy and Geopolitics

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the important but oft-overlooked nexus between resource policy and geopolitics.   The latest case in point is South Korea, which, as ARPN President Daniel McGroarty points out in his latest opinion piece for Fox News, is navigating murky waters “talking sunshine and Rare Earths as North Korean war clouds gather.”

    For decades, South Korea has acquired strategic mineral resources it requires for its domestic high-tech industries from its sworn enemy North Korea via the South Korean state owned resource corporation KORES, which also happens to be 50% owner of North Korea’s largest graphite mine.

    Rumored nuclear warhead testing on behalf of the Pyongyang regime has triggered an “unusual degree of collaboration” between U.S. and Chinese leaders to discuss Kim Jong Un’s brinkmanship.  And while South Korea did shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the wake of its Northern neighbors’ 2016 nuclear tests, now, with South Korea’s presidential election to be held on May 9, leaders are not only mulling the prospect of re-opening said complex, but to even expand it.

    The question is “why South Korea sees North Korea – its sworn enemy – as a source for those materials, in the face of strong evidence that the revenue generated from those purchases is funneled into financing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.” 

    Says McGroarty:

    “South Korea can’t have it both ways. It can’t claim be under an existential threat from Kim Jong Un, only to reopen a hard currency spigot that will keep Kim and his cronies in power, and fund a nuclear weapons capability that will – by 2020, some national security experts say —  threaten the continental United States itself.”  

    McGroarty argues that South Korea would be well-advised to begin working with American suppliers to develop new non-North Korean sources of critical metals and minerals. After all, he says:

    “With U.S. naval strike groups sent North Korea’s way and calls for the expedited deployment of THAAD missile defense systems ringing out, one thing is certain:  It’s going to be very hard to convince the American people to go to the brink with a nuclear-armed madman on behalf of an ally who has helped bankroll the nuclear weapons arrayed against it.”     

    Resource policy does not occur in a vacuum — and that’s a message that should not just resonate with South Korea’s political leaders, but U.S. policy makers as well.

    Read the full opinion piece on Fox News here.

  • EVENT: Experts to Discuss Critical Mineral Supply Chains and Energy Storage Revolution

    Our friends at Benchmark Minerals are back in town and they’ve done it again: The team led by Benchmark Minerals Managing Director and ARPN expert panel member Simon Moores has once more put together a great lineup for a half-day event in Washington, DC this Wednesday. Speakers like David Abraham, Director of the Technology, Rare (…) more

  • USGS Highlights U.S. Mineral Resource Dependence and Associated Risks

    At ARPN, we have long argued that our over-reliance on foreign minerals is problematic – particularly in light of the fact that the United States itself is home to vast mineral resources. Recognizing the importance of the issue, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which has long been a formidable source of relevant data and (…) more

  • The U.S. Tomahawk Strike – Syria, Russia … and China?

    While the world media mulls the impact of the U.S. airstrike on Syria in the wake of the sarin gas attack and marvel at the accuracy of the Tomahawk cruise missile, friends of ARPN are reminded that the rare earths critical to the Tomahawk’s terminal guidance system are sourced from China. An interesting sidebar to (…) more

  • Guest Commentary: Jeff Green On New Congressional REE Policy Initiative

    The following is a guest post by American Resources expert and J.A. Green & Company president and founder Jeffery A. Green The United States has placed itself in a very precarious situation with respect to its ability to produce and refine strategic and critical materials. Over the past few years we have willfully ceded our last remaining (…) more

  • Cobalt – First Steps Towards Reducing Mineral Resource Dependencies?

    A recent piece for InvestorIntel zeroes in on a metal which, due to its growing use in battery technology, coupled with a challenging supply scenario is increasingly afforded “critical mineral” status – Cobalt. A co-product of Nickel and Copper, the metal’s recent history, as author Lara Smith argues, has been “chaotic.” ARPN agrees that about sums it up. Criticism regarding the (…) more

  • USGS Report Bellwether for National Security Crisis?

    For over two decades, the United States Geological Survey has released its Mineral Commodity Summaries report.  And while ARPN followers will know how important this publication is, as it provides a snapshot of our nation’s mineral resource dependencies, in most years its release has gone largely unnoticed beyond the circles of mineral resource wonks. This year, a (…) more

  • 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 (…) more

  • China’s REE Stranglehold Comes Back Into Focus

    If the first few weeks with a new administration at the helm in Washington, DC are any indication, we will see more efforts to make sweeping changes in federal policy in the coming weeks.  One area where President Donald Trump promised changes on the campaign trail is trade – and specifically relations with China. In (…) more

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