American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Resources in the Balance: The Concept of Compromise and the NDAA Land Exchange

    Whether it’s from our mothers or from Mick Jagger, most of us learn somewhere along the line that “you can’t always get what you want.” It’s part of a mature approach to life, and – when applied to politics – is the precursor to reaching deals that, through compromise, find a majority.

    A rejection of that wisdom is on display in the reaction to news that a federal land exchange package is included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House last week and is now awaiting Senate action. The package opens approximately 100,000 square acres of federal lands to resource development, while receiving more than 240,000 new acres into the federal wilderness reserve. In the effort to balance competing public goods – economic development, national security, and environmental conservation – it sounds like the kind of compromise people are anxious to see from the U.S. Congress.

    Not so – at least for some officials who, unlike members of Congress, feel no such need to balance public goods. Witness Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, whose department includes the Bureau of Land Management — which, under the proposed package, will receive those new acres into the federal lands reserve – who pronounces herself “deeply disappointed” with the inclusion of one element in the package: the Arizona copper land exchange. That provision transfers more than 5,000 square acres to the federal government in exchange for 2,400 acres known to contain the significant copper reserves, an amount equal to less than one-tenth of one percent of Arizona’s 3 million square acre Tonto National Forest. As for Secretary Jewell, this is the same person who, as Secretary-designate, at her 2013 Senate confirmation hearing, embraced the concept of balance in public land policy, stating: “I have had that kind of balanced perspective in my career and would bring it to the role.”

    That, as they say, was then.

    Critics also claim the Arizona compromise ignores the concerns of local Native American tribes. But if you dig deeper – and by deeper, I mean if you Google the bill — the legislative language tells a different story. In fact, there are no less than four provisions that respond to the concerns of area tribes:

    • Government-to-government consultations with the tribes;
    • Special protection for an area called Apache Leap, and its withdrawal from any proposed mine plan;
    • Provisions for safe access to the Oak Flat area after the land exchange;
    • And a full NEPA review before the land title changes hands.

    Where does this information come from? It’s in the published bill, as posted online. So much for the meme that the package is being slipped into the defense bill in the dead of night.

    The same is true of the “last-minute” meme that plays so well at the close of any Congress. Contrary to this claim, the outlines of the Arizona land exchange have been discussed, debated and subject to Congressional hearings for years.

    Then there’s the bipartisan, bicameral nature of the compromise. The package was shaped in the House by Republican Paul Gosar and Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. In the Senate, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) negotiated the provisions responding to tribal issues in consultation with Senator Jon Tester and his Democratic colleagues.

    And finally, there’s the claim that the land exchange package is being attached to the must-pass 2015 National Defense Authorization Act – in Hill-speak, the inclusion of a measure that’s “non-germane.”

    And yet, copper is the second most widely utilized material in defense weapons platforms, and a Department of Defense study has found that a copper shortfall has already resulted in a “significant weapon system production delay.” If Congress authorizes and funds defense weapons systems, isn’t it within their power to facilitate production of the materials that allow those weapons systems to function?

    Is the package perfect? What Congressional compromise ever is? In Congress as in life, you can’t always get what you want, but as Mick Jagger may have learned at the London School of Economics and Political Science, sometimes, “you get what you need.”

  • Economic Development in the Balance: the Land Exchange Package in the NDAA

    In the rush to act on must-pass legislation in the waning days of the 113th Congress, it’s possible for ARPN followers to have some hope that sound resource policy is still possible in Washington. Case in point: the carefully-crafted federal land exchange package that is part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the must-pass bill that sets in place Pentagon policies and defense funding for the year ahead.

    Analyzing breaking legislation is a tricky business, and some have characterized the land exchange package as a federal land grab, appropriating even more acres into the already-massive federal wilderness inventory. And if that’s all there was to the package, there would be little reason to support it.

    But that’s not the full story. The new lands added to the federal wilderness register are part of a balanced agreement that frees up current federal lands for resource development — providing new and needed domestic sources of oil, natural gas, coal, timber and key metals like copper.

    As such, the land package is an opportunity to break the logjam that has characterized much of the 113th Congress, and to do so in a way that encourages the development of key materials critical to a revival of America’s manufacturing might.

    Including such a package in the NDAA is well within the purview of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, as land exchanges have been a fixture in NDAA’s for at least 25 years, across both Republican and Democratic presidencies.

    And in the case of copper, where the U.S. currently imports 600,000 metric tons a year, the exchange can facilitate a new source of domestic supply sufficient to nearly close the copper gap. That’s a legitimate national security objective, as the lack of copper and two of its by-product metals – molybdenum and tellurium – have, as the National Defense Stockpile Requirements Report notes, already caused significant defense weapons system delays.

    Nor is this an example of last-minute special interest legislation being tossed into a must-pass bill. Senator Murkowski and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle have been crafting this compromise for the better part of two years. This isn’t a last-minute ornament being hung on the Congressional Christmas Tree; the NDAA is the culmination of this process.

    The NDAA land exchange package is a solid example of sound policy — a balanced package with bipartisan support that will generate jobs and GDP while advancing critical national security interests.

  • Mines to Market: The National Mining Association’s New Report on the Connections Between Mining and Manufacturing

    ARPN followers are well aware of the connection between Made in America and Mined in America. Today, the National Mining Association (NMA) released a comprehensive new report, documenting in detail the importance of mined materials to America’s manufacturing resurgence – or lack thereof. The NMA report notes what it terms “…a gross structural mismatch between (…) more

  • “Measuring Greenness:” A New Metric Takes the Measure of the Metals that Drive the Green Transition

    ARPN followers well understand that a host of metals and minerals are key to the green-tech transition – rare earths like neodymium and mainstay metals like copper for wind turbines, Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenium for the CIGS solar panel technology. The list is long. Yet all too often, Green advocates take a reflexively oppositional stance towards all-things-mining. ARPN (…) more

  • The Geo-Politics of Rare Earths: China Reported to Add to Stockpile

    ARPN readers know that one of the core tenets of the Resource Wars thesis is that the market for strategic and critical metals is never immune to government interventions. Witness today’s Bloomberg report: “China Said to Add 10,000 Tons to Rare Earths Stockpiles.” Bloomberg reports: “China may stockpile more medium-to-heavy rare earths this year such (…) more

  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty in the Wall Street Journal

    ARPN’s Dan McGroarty reports a worrisome development in the saga of EPA’s unprecedented use of pre-emptive veto power to stop Alaska’s proposed Pebble Mine even before a mine plan is presented for review: Anti-mining activists are urging EPA to dust off its veto pen again. And again. Noting a common thread between new pushes for (…) more

  • Made in America Starts with Mined in America

    That’s the title of this Forbes.com piece co-authored by ARPN’s Dan McGroarty and Behre Dolbear CEO Karr McCurdy. ARPN readers know Behre’s “Where Not to Mine” report as the annual review that regularly shows the U.S. leading the mining world in the one category where being first is being last: the time it takes to (…) more

  • Does Elon Musk Know Where His Giga-Metals Will Come From?

    ARPN followers are well-versed on the dangers of foreign resource dependency – a concern highlighted by Tesla Motors’ announcement earlier this year that the EV manufacturer will build a massive Giga-Factory in the American Southwest, with the goal of doubling global EV battery output by 2020. As ARPN’ers know, the next question is: Where will (…) more

  • Op-ed: How the EPA Sticks Miners With a Motherlode of Regulation

    The following op-ed by American Resources Principal Dan McGroarty was published in the Wall Street Journal on January 3, 2014. The original text can be found here. How the EPA Sticks Miners With a Motherlode of Regulation The years-long wait for mining permits in the U.S. is the worst in the world. On Dec. 13, (…) more

  • Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory to Drive Critical Mineral Demand

    The graphite, lithium and cobalt industries are set for major demand surges as Tesla Motors prepares to break ground on its super-battery plant, the Gigafactory, next month. The high-end EV manufacturer is looking to double the world’s battery output as it seeks to bring the production cost of battery packs down in a bid to (…) more