It’s that time of the year again. We’re filling our shopping carts with food and drinks, making sure we have enough gas for the grill, and buying some fireworks. The 4th of July, and with that, Independence Day, has arrived. But our country’s 240th birthday is more than a good reason to throw a barbecue in honor of the men and women who have fought, and continue to safeguard our freedom today.
The 4th of July also represents an opportune moment to reflect on what it means to be independent. While we cherish the freedom we are blessed with in so many ways, we must not become complacent, as there are areas where we’re increasingly becoming less independent. Our nation’s mineral resource policy is a case in point:
As our friends at the National Mining Association have aptly pointed out in their latest email message to their supporters (subscription only), “minerals make possible much of the technology that enables national defense” and “keep our nation and our troops safe and fuel innovations that improve veterans’ quality of life.”
Recognizing the importance of critical metals and minerals, the United States began placing an emphasis on securing access to these materials in the 1950s. However, a recent USGS analysis paints a troubling picture. An analysis of data collected between 1954 and 2014 shows that our reliance on foreign non-fuel minerals has significantly increased over the examined 60-year time frame – both in terms of number and type, as well as percentage of import reliance. As we previously pointed out:
“The data clearly shows that whereas the number of nonfuel mineral commodities for which the United States was greater than 50% net import-dependent was 28 in 1954, this number has increased to 47 in 2014. And while the U.S. was 100% net import reliant for 8 of the non-fuel commodities analyzed in 1954, this total import reliance increased to 11 non-fuel minerals in 1984, and surged to 19 in 2014.”
What’s more, there has been a drastic shift in provider countries:
“Whereas in 1954 the U.S. sourced metals and minerals largely from our trading partners, our diversified supply sources today also include a number of countries that are ranked as ‘unfree’ and ‘less free’ on various indices, thus raising the specter of supply disruptions given the volatility of geopolitical realities.”
ARPN followers know that much of our over-reliance on foreign minerals is largely self-inflicted. Most recently, using the example of Copper, we’ve pointed this out as part of our “Through the Gateway” informational campaign on Gateway Metals and their Co-Products, arguing that:
“With our own reserves and at mining projects ready to come online, the U.S. would not only be able to become self-sufficient with regards to meeting Copper needs, but could even position itself to be a Copper net exporter. A similar scenario is feasible for a number of other critical metals and minerals, where we could, at a minimum, significantly reduce foreign import dependencies by harnessing our domestic mineral potential.”
James Madison, one of the Founding Fathers of the very nation the birthday of which we’re about to celebrate, once said:
“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
USGS has alerted us to one of those gradual and silent encroachments. They come in the form of decreased exploration spending and an increase in the time it takes for domestic mineral resource extraction projects to come online courtesy of a rigid and outdated permitting process. Hopefully, in the midst of our national birthday celebrations, our policy makers are taking note.