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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The “Indispensable Twins” of Critical Minerals – Niobium and Tantalum

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on what USGS has dubbed the “indispensable twins” – Niobium and Tantalum. Both share “nearly indistinguishable physical and chemical properties” and are “critical to the defense, energy and high-tech sectors.”  Meanwhile, neither Niobium nor Tantalum are mined in the United States, so their inclusion on the recently-released Department of the Interior list of 35 minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security and the economy should come as no surprise.

    Standouts among Niobium’s properties are its “toughness, resistance to corrosion and high melting point [which] makes it an important alloy to steel that will be used in situations where durability is vital.” Its extreme heat resistance when alloyed with steel makes it a key ingredient for superalloys in jet engines, rockets, gas turbines, and turbochargers.

    Tantalum shares many of Niobium’s characteristics, but, as Lasley writes, it’s “its exceptional capacity to store and release energy” that sets this twin apart, and has resulted in the fact that “50 percent of the tantalum consumed in the United States was used in capacitors and high-power resistors for the electronics sector.”

    Lasley lists several more of the twins’ properties, but for our purposes, suffice it to say they’re indeed quite “indispensable.”

    In spite of the fact that the United States is home to both Niobium and Tantalum deposits, neither of them has been produced domestically since the 1950s.  As a result, the U.S. 100% is import dependent for both, with Brazil (pegged at 72 percent for Niobium, 40 percent for Tantalum minerals) and China (pegged at 23 percent for Tantalum metals) listed as lead suppliers by USGS — leaving domestic industries vulnerable to supply disruptions.

    Thankfully, there is domestic resource potential that – if properly harnessed, could alleviate these vulnerabilities. Lasley points to several deposits in Alaska that show great potential for domestic development of both Niobium and Tantalum, as well as a number of other metals and minerals deemed critical from an economic and national security perspective.

    Whether or not these specific deposits are economically viable remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that we need a framework conducive to unleashing this kind of domestic resource potential.

    As Mark J. Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus recently wrote for the Washington Examiner:

    “More than ever before, our political and business leaders need to make it clear that foreign dependence is neither the right nor the necessary way, and exposes the U.S. economy to great and unnecessary risks. An ideal minerals policy would limit regulatory intrusion, promote economic growth, and enable U.S. companies to compete in international markets. Environmentalists will likely resist any regulatory rollbacks. But so profound is the case for strengthening U.S. mining of minerals and metals that our highest priority should be the security and economic dividends from a pro-competitiveness agenda.”

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  • Critical Minerals Alaska – Rhenium Riches in Alaska Could Help Alleviate Supply Issues

    The BBC has dubbed Rhenium — another metal included in the Department of the Interior’s Final List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy — a “super element” with standout properties that can be likened to “alien technology.”

    Thus, it comes as no surprise that Shane Lasley, writing for North of 60 Mining News, has included Rhenium in his feature series “Critical Minerals Alaska.” 

    Citing Rhenium’s high resistance to both heat and wear, which makes it a “vital element in superalloys,” Lasley says it’s these properties coupled with extreme scarcity that “helps boost it onto the list of 35.

    After outlining the demand scenario for Rhenium based on USGS figures, Lasley zeroes in on the supply side.  Porphyry Copper-Molybdenum deposits, from which most Rhenium is derived, tend to be low in concentration, but the “large tonnage mined from this type of deposit makes it possible to recover economically viable quantities of the critical mineral.”

    According to Lasley, the Pebble deposit in Alaska holds large amounts of Rhenium and could not only supply significant quantities of Rhenium, but also be “indicative of Alaska’s larger potential for this super alloy metal.”  He writes:

    “Calculations completed in 2011 estimates the measured and indicated resource contains roughly 0.45 g/t rhenium, which equates to around 2.9 million kilograms, or roughly US$6.4 billion, of the critical superalloy metal.

    This is enough rhenium to supply the world’s needs for more than four decades at 2017 consumption levels and does not account for the rhenium contained in the 4.45 billion metric tons of inferred resource outlined at Pebble.”

    This, according to USGS, “suggests that there is the potential for significant rhenium resources in undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in Alaska” – good news, given that the U.S. currently imports 80% of the rhenium it requires each year.

    As followers of ARPN know, turning that potential into actual production — in the case of rhenium and its fellow “criticals” — will take a policy framework that rewards the risks inherent in resource development.

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  • Beyond Golf Clubs and Aircraft – “Critical Minerals Alaska” Zeroes in on Titanium 

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of Sixty Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on Titanium – an “abundant element that has become an important industrial commodity only within the past 150 years,” according to USGS. As Lasley writes, “Titanium conjures images of the durable and lightweight metal used to build aircraft, replacement hips, [...]
  • A Non-Flashy Yet Essential Critical Mineral – Barite   

    If you haven’t had of Barite, you’re excused – even for avid followers of ARPN Barite is not among the first that come to mind of when you think of critical minerals. It has, however, attained that status with its inclusion in the Department of Interior’s list of 35 metals and minerals considered critical to [...]
  • “Critical Minerals Alaska:” A Familiar Scenario for Tungsten – Chinese Domination and U.S. Prospects

    Pop quiz: Which metal has “the highest melting point of all the elements on the periodic table, (…) is a vital ingredient to a wide-range of industrial and military applications,” has made the Department of Interior’s final list of 35 metals deemed critical to U.S. national security, “yet none of this durable metal is currently [...]
  • “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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • “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 [...]
  • The Arctic – A Looming Battlefield for Resource Supremacy?

    While relations between Russia and the United States continue to make headlines on a daily basis, one particular aspect of this relationship – in spite of the fact that it may be one of the most contentious ones – has been largely flying under the radar. As Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin recently wrote: [...]
  • EPA Overreach: Headed for Congressional Push-Back?

    The EPA’s unilateral expansion of its authority appears to be heading for some Congressional push-back. Witness a column written by Alaska’s senior Senator, Lisa Murkowski, for Alaska’s Anchorage Daily News, in which Murkowski asks: “What would Alaskans say if a federal agency retroactively vetoed permits for development of Prudhoe Bay, declaring it never should have [...]
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