American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Misconceived Notions of America’s Military Might Spell Trouble

    “We still have the most capable military in the world, but that position is increasingly in jeopardy.”

    That’s the sobering verdict of ret. Col. Wesley Hallman, senior vice president of policy at the National Defense Industrial Association, in a commentary for Defense News.

    Hallman argues that there are three misconceptions of America’s martial powers that have led us to believe that “we are — and always will be — more capable than our adversaries and can rapidly build to overcome any threat.” Without significant investments, he says, we’re “probably wrong.”

    As Hallman outlines, our military today is “a smaller, more expensive force largely operating Desert Storm vintage equipment” – though that state is masked by the fact that we haven’t met a “serious conventional foe” in Afghanistan or Iraq.

    The three areas in which Americans hold misconceived notions which have “put the United States into a precarious position” according to Hellman are:

    1. the military’s capacity,
    2. its relative capabilities, and
    3. and industry’s ability to supply it quickly with weapons systems that can dominate our peers.

    From an ARPN perspective, the most relevant point of course is number three.

    Writes Hellman:

    “[M]ost American’s (sic) believe our nation enjoys the same defense-industrial base that served as the ‘arsenal of democracy’ in World War II, capable of scaling up production and innovation when truly needed, or the so-called military-industrial complex that powered the United States through the Cold War.

    Today, instead of a robust bench of large and mid-sized companies and their myriad small-business suppliers competing and producing new capabilities at the speed of information-age innovation, our defense industry has shrunk to a few standout corporations. This has obscured fragile supply chains that are hampered by a risk-averse government acquisition system that takes 10 years to field a replacement handgun for the services.”

    The issue is compounded by the availability of the mineral resources needed to develop our military’s equipment.  As our very own Daniel McGroarty wrote a few years back:

    “Since the implosion of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the U.S. defense stockpile has been treated as a kind of raw materials garage-sale, with nearly all metals marked for a phased sell-off — calibrated so as not to unduly undercut current metal prices. Stockpile silver went to the U.S. Mint for the striking of silver dollars, an almost literal swords-into-plowshares swap. Other metals were sold to pay for the cost of erecting the World War II Memorial without having to appropriate federal funds. Still more metals were sold with the proceeds flowing back to the U.S. Treasury, where they were spent on whatever it is the federal government funds to the tune of $10 billion a day.”

    Meanwhile, as the 2016 USGS study “Comparison of U.S. net import reliance for nonfuel mineral commodities—A 60-year retrospective”shows, 30 years ago, the U.S. was 100% foreign-dependent for 11 metals and minerals.  Today, that number has increased to 21. Meanwhile, we are more than 50% import-dependent for 50 minerals in all – nearly half of the naturally-occurring elements on the Periodic Table.

    Making matters worse, the federal mine permitting process has grown increasingly convoluted and opaque, and has left miners struggling with a “permitting odyssey that stretches an average of 7 to 10 years and oftentimes longer.”

    Thankfully, efforts to address these issues are underway.  The Department of Interior has provided a good starting point for reforms with its recently released list of 35 metals and minerals deemed critical for U.S. national security.   And an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by Rep. Mark Amodei (R, NV) would streamline the above-referenced permitting nightmare – and there are compelling reasons for its passage. As Dan McGroarty recently wrote:

    • “6 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.”

    The situation is dire, but luckily, as McGroarty points out, “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 domestic minerals deficit.” 

    However, there is still resistance against the necessary reforms, particularly on Capitol Hill. Col. Hallman’s piece should be required reading for policy makers and their staff, and they should take his conclusion to heart:

    “It’s time to see reality, recognize these challenges and their root causes, and make the hard reforms necessary to reinvest in American strength.”

  • “Critical Minerals Alaska” – Rising Demand and Supply Side Complications Combine as Catalysts to Establish Domestic Sources of Cobalt

    In his latest installment of “Critical Minerals Alaska” – a feature series for North of 60 Mining News that “investigates Alaska’s potential as a domestic source of minerals deemed critical to the United States,” Shane Lasley takes a closer look at Cobalt, one of the key metals underpinning the current EV technology revolution.

    Once an obscure metal you rarely heard about, this co-product of Nickel and Copper has recently been afforded “critical mineral status” – primarily because of its application in Lithium-ion battery technology. Meanwhile, U.S. import reliance for Cobalt is pegged at 72 percent, with recycling providing most of the balance.  This may change soon. Writes Lasley:

    “With at least one advanced stage exploration project in Alaska looking into the potential of producing cobalt alongside its copper, America’s 49th State could provide a domestic source for this critical metal.”

    In light of recent price surges for Cobalt, battery makers, among them Tesla, are looking to develop technologies that require less of the material. However, as Lasley points out:

    “Researchers and analysts do not see a scenario where the reduction of cobalt per battery can come close to offsetting the growing number of batteries that will be needed in the coming three decades.”

    Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts agrees, and in a recent tweet challenged Elon Musk to clarify what he meant when tweeting out his assumption that Tesla would reduce cobalt use to zero in their batteries in “next gen.” Moores believes it is “highly unlikely Tesla will be able to eliminate Cobalt from its supply chain entirely” and pegs the probability of such a scenario at one percent.

    With demand on the rise, complex supply chain complications have companies turn to the United States as a potential source of supply.

    As Lasley explains:

    “One of the difficulties is cobalt is seldom mined as a standalone metal. Instead, this increasingly needed battery metal is typically produced as a byproduct at copper and nickel mines. This means that any future cobalt mines would likely need to consider the economics of the moneymaking metal in the deposit.

    “This situation limits producers’ flexibility in adjusting the amount of cobalt mined in response to changes in demand and can result in periods of oversupply or shortage,” according to the USGS.

    While at lower prices, the cost to recover cobalt from copper or nickel mines may not have been economically viable, the demand electric vehicles are putting on this metal has companies taking a closer look at the feasibility of recovering cobalt exploring and developing copper deposits in the United States.”

    Further complicating the situation is Cobalt’s conflict mineral status, which has led to pressures on automakers to source the material outside the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from which a majority of Cobalt is currently sourced.  This, as Lasley points out, “could add to the catalysts to establish domestic sources of this critical metal.”

    To read the full piece, in which Lasley provides more detail on the feasible Cobalt development projects in Alaska, click here.

  • McGroarty for IBD: “Subjecting U.S. Aluminum Access to Trade Tensions with Canada National Security Crisis Waiting to Happen”

    Against the backdrop of the recent escalation of the U.S.-Canada trade war, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues in a new piece for Investor’s Business Daily that while “the focus has been on U.S.-imposed trade tariffs on Canadian-made aluminum and steel, and their economic impact,” the “damage the tariffs may do to the U.S. defense industrial base” (…) more

  • Supply Chain Timelines Warrant Comprehensive Policy Approach – A Look at Lithium

    In case you haven’t noticed, EV battery technology is the new black. With Lithium being one of the key metals driving this technology, our friends at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence have looked at the material’s supply chain – and the time it takes to develop the respective components of it. As Simon Moores, managing director at (…) more

  • America’s Critical Mineral Issues are Largely Home-Grown

    A recent commentary piece by Printus LeBlanc, contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government, draws attention to the home-grown nature of America’s critical mineral resource issues and their geo-political context. LeBlanc sets the stage using the example of a relatively unknown Chinese phone company becoming the focus of Congressional concern because the Administration was in (…) more

  • Passing the Torch – Change in Leadership at Critical Materials Institute (CMI)

    There’s a lot going on in the realm of critical minerals these days – and that does not only apply to policy, but also personnel changes. After five years of building and leading the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, its Director Dr. Alex King (…) more

  • “From Bad to Worse” – Why the Current Focus on Critical Minerals Matters

    Earlier this spring, the Department of the Interior released its finalized Critical Minerals List.  Jeffery Green, president and founder of government relations firm J.A. Green & Company and member of the ARPN panel of experts reminded us in a recent piece for Defense News why the current focus on our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources (…) more

  • Critical Mineral List Finalized – Now Comes the Hard Part

    “Identifying which minerals are ‘critical’ is the easy part. Working out what to do about them is going to be much harder.”  – That’s the conclusion Reuters columnist Andy Home draws in his recent piece on the current Administration’s efforts to develop a strategy to reduce import reliance for metals considered “critical to the economic and (…) more

  • The Daily Caller: DOI Critical Minerals List Highlights United States’ Over-Reliance on Foreign Mineral Resources

    Heavily quoting from ARPN’s statement on the issue, The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch earlier this month reported on the Department of the Interior’s finalized list of minerals deemed critical for U.S. national security. Writes Bastasch: “President Donald Trump’s administration’s release of a list of 35 critical minerals highlights just how reliant the U.S. is on (…) more

  • McGroarty for IBD: “Time to Make the Connection Between Critical Minerals and National Defense”

    “For want of a nail … the kingdom was lost” Invoking the old proverb dating back to the 13th Century as a cautionary tale and reminder that “the most sophisticated defense supply chain is only as strong as our weakest link,” ARPN’s Dan McGroarty argues in a new piece for Investor’s Business Daily that the (…) more