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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 U.S. national security.

    In his latest installment of his series “Critical Minerals Alaska” for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley spotlights what makes the metal a critical mineral:

    “While not the flashiest of the 35 minerals on the United States Geological Survey’s critical list, barite plays an essential role in America’s energy sector.

    Barite got its name from the Ancient Greek word for heavy, barús, and it is the high specific gravity that earned this mineral its name that makes it a critical mineral.”

    Lasley quotes USGS which stated in its 2018 Mineral Commodity Summaries report that “more than 90 percent of the barite sold in the United States was used as a weighting agent in fluids used in the drilling of oil and natural gas wells.” Other applications include its use in as filler, extender or weighting agents in a variety of products ranging from paints to plastic and rubber. It is widely used in the automobile and metal-casting industries, as well as the medical field where its ability to block x-ray and gamma-ray emissions makes it the perfect aggregate in high-density concrete.

    Meanwhile, U.S. domestic production of Barite is declining, with only two mines and a temporary mining project active in 2017, according to USGS.  The exact numbers for domestic barite production were withheld for the 2018 Mineral Commodity Summaries report, but of the roughly 3 million metric tons of Barite used in the U.S, more than 75 percent is imported from China.

    With domestic production faltering, that number can only be expected to grow — and once more, China, which already supplies more than half of the world’s Barite and is the main import source for the metal used in the U.S. may step in to fill any void.

    USGS does not provide numbers on available domestic resources or reserves — but as Lasley points out, there are several metal-rich deposits in Alaska “that host intriguing quantities of this critical drill mud mineral.”

    In light of its properties and the supply and demand picture, Barite has earned its stripes as a critical mineral — now it is up to policy makers to devise a comprehensive policy framework that fosters the responsible domestic development of our mineral resources.

    Click here to read Shane Lasley’s full piece for North of 60 Mining News.

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  • “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 mined in the United States?”

    In the seventh 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 zeroes in on the metal described above: Tungsten.

    Once more, a familiar scenario unfolds here as is the case for so many of the metals and minerals deemed critical from a U.S. perspective – China dominates both production and global supply of the material. Writes Lasley:

    “In 2017, the Middle Kingdom produced an estimated 79,000 metric tons of tungsten, roughly 82 percent of the global total for the year. Vietnam, the world’s second largest tungsten supplier, produced 7,200 metric tons last year. Russia, Austria and the United Kingdom round out the world’s top tungsten sources.

    In recent years, however, China has put limitations on tungsten mining and exports of this durable metal, causing concerns about global supply.

    (…)

    While China touts stronger environmental safeguards as one of the primary reasons for restricting the mining of tungsten, as well as a host of other critical metals, many analysts believes the government’s motives have more to do with consolidating mining to the country’s largest producers and bolstering prices.

    Whatever the motivations, China’s production and export restrictions have resulted in sharp increases in the price of ferro-tungsten, an iron (25 percent) and tungsten (75 percent) alloy traded on world markets.”

    To followers of ARPN, who are no strangers to China’s propensity to play politics with its supply advantages — or, as in the case of Rare Earths, near-total supply monopolies — this should come as no surprise, and should be a consideration for policy makers in the current escalation of trade tensions between both countries.

    An opportunity to at least alleviate domestic supply concerns for Tungsten may be found in Alaska, writes Lasley:

    “Though none of this tough metal is currently mined in the United States, Alaska is a past producer of the tungsten minerals, wolframite and scheelite, and areas across the state show promise for future production of these and other critical minerals.” 

    Among them, the Lost River skarn on the Seward Peninsula about 80 miles northwest of Nome likely holds the most promise, according to Lasley:

    “With tungsten, fluorite, tin and beryllium all on USGS’s recent list of minerals critical to the United States, the Lost River deposit may well be worth the work to further define a critical metals deposit on U.S. soil.”

    To read Lasley’s full piece, click here.
    For other installments of his series, click here.

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  • “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 [...]
  • Witnesses lament EPA overreach during Congressional hearing

    The government shutdown notwithstanding, mining experts took to Capitol Hill this week to share their concerns about the roadblocks they encounter in the form of often unnecessary and costly regulations, and even – in some cases – abusive actions on the part of the Obama Administration, with members of Congress. During Thursday’s House Natural Resources [...]
  • As EPA Administrator visits Bristol Bay, environmentalists repeat call for preemptive veto

    While Members of Congress spent some time in their home districts last month, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy traveled to Alaska to discuss the President’s climate action plan and hear arguments from stakeholders in the Bristol Bay area on the proposed Pebble mine. Opponents of the project used the occasion to once more push for a [...]
  • Senate hearing puts price tag on EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

    The Daily Caller Foundation’s Michael Bastasch, who has consistently offered thorough coverage of some of the most pressing mineral- and mining-related issues, last week took a closer look at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s spending on the agency’s controversial Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. According to Bastasch, during a recent U.S. Senate hearing, “Ken Kopocis, President [...]

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