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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The Lightweighting Revolution Continues – But Supply Challenges Loom Large

    Materials science continues to yield innovative discoveries at neck-breaking speed.   Followers of ARPN are aware of Scalmalloy – an “aluminum alloy powder ‘with almost the specific strength of titanium’ [used] to build incredible structures by fusing thin layers of the material together.”

    One of its key components is Scandium – which explains the first two letters of the somewhat unusual name.  In the context of the lightweighting revolution, which has been marked by the “growing imperative to lightweight transportation, buildings, and infrastructure systems,” Scandium has become an indispensable tech metal.

    Researchers at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer ILT have now found a way to successfully 3D print a high-performance scandium/aluminum alloy (Al-Mg-Sc-Zr) using selective laser melting (SLM) technology – a specific 3D printing technique, which utilizes high power-density laser to fully melt and fuse metallic powders to produce near net-shape parts with near full density (up to 99.9% relative density).”

    Already, Scandium is an indispensable material for aeronautics with Aluminium-Scandium alloys having helped reduce aircraft weights by 15% to 20%, without compromising the strength of the building material. 3D printed Scandium and Aluminum-based high-performance alloys as the one produced by the above-referenced researchers may become even more relevant as the U.S. Government embarks on a path to create a U.S. Space Force.

    However, with demand for Scandium expected to rise tremendously, there are challenges on the horizon. As we have previously pointed out:

    “While on paper, Scandium resources may in fact be abundant, it is rarely concentrated in nature, making commercially viable deposits extremely rare. Because it is at present largely recovered as a co-product during the processing of various Gateway Metals, including Tin and Nickel, total global production rates are quite low (see our previous post).  Scandium may also be present in certain Copper and Rare Earth deposits.”

    In order to meet this anticipated jump in demand, several mining companies – most recently in Russia and Australia – have begun exploring the possibility of primary Scandium recovery.  In the U.S., which is currently 100% import dependent to meet our domestic Scandium needs and has to rely on China and Russia, developers of multi-metallic deposits are also studying the inclusion of scandium recovery into their project plans.

    (…)

    Change cannot happen overnight – particularly in a regulatory environment that does not favor resource development.  From a U.S. perspective, much will depend on whether domestic stakeholders are able to improve our policy framework to unleash our own resource potential.”

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  • Trade Patterns May Stay, but Manufacturers and Consumers to Bear the Brunt of Current Tensions Over Aluminum and Steel

    A recent Bloomberg story we featured last week put a face on the specter of trade war over aluminum and steel, and retraced the history of this symbiotic U.S.- Canadian trade relationship and what our very own Dan McGroarty has called the “world’s most integrated defense industrial base.”  

    Digging a little deeper, a new Wall Street Journal piece takes us further into a “tightly woven production chain” which “illustrates the U.S. dependence on aluminum from Canada” and outlines the ramifications of current trade tensions between both countries for manufacturers and consumers.

    The use of hydroelectric power in Quebec, Canada, allows for the cost-efficient operation of energy-intensive aluminum smelters, which in recent decades has led to Canada becoming the key producer of the metal for the United States.

    Writes Kim Mackrael:

    “The U.S. produces just 13% of the 5.6 million metric tons of raw aluminum it uses each year.

    U.S. aluminum smelters are among the costliest and oldest in the world — above $2,000 per metric ton and 47 years on average, according to market consultant Harbor Aluminum in Texas. Canada’s smelters, aged an average 26 years, make the metal for about $1,500 a ton.”

    Citing Eric Krepps, who runs runs the North American automotive business at Constellium NV, a Dutch aluminum company, who argues that there is not enough domestic aluminum production in the U.S., and that “[w]e could not source everything out of the U.S. even if we wanted to,” Mackrael reports that:

    “Instead, the 10% tariffs are already adding costs right down the supply chain — directly through the duty paid at the border and indirectly though higher aluminum prices, delays and added bureaucracy, manufacturers say. Tariffs have contributed to a doubling in the premium paid for North American aluminum since January.

    Analysts and some car companies say the higher aluminum prices will likely be passed on to American car-buyers rather than absorbed entirely by companies.”

    Read more here – and to read more about the security implications of the escalating U.S.-Canada trade tensions over aluminum and steel tariffs, read Dan McGroarty’s recent piece for Investor’s Business Daily, entitled “The U.S.-Canada Trade War’s Collateral Damage: The U.S. Defense Industrial Base.”

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  • Arvida, Quebec – Putting a Face on the Specter of Trade War Over Aluminum and Steel

    Last month, our very own Dan McGroarty argued in a piece for Investor’s Business Daily that the escalation of the trade war over U.S.-imposed trade tariffs on Canadian made aluminum and steel has serious implications not only for our economy, but also for the U.S. defense industrial base.  In it, he outlined the genesis of [...]
  • 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” [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for Investor’s Business Daily: U.S. Mineral Resource Dependence a “Clear and Present Danger”

    Against the backdrop of growing threats to U.S. security – recent flash points involve Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – a new Presidential Executive Order “On Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States,” zeroes in on defense readiness. The E.O. requires heads from various [...]
  • Scandium – Ready to “Take Off”?

    Remember the Light Rider?  A few months ago, we highlighted this high-tech motorcycle, which, because it is held together by an intricate web of “Scalmalloy,” is perhaps the lightest motorcycle in the world. Scalmalloy is an “aluminum alloy powder ‘with almost the specific strength of titanium’ [used] to build incredible structures by fusing thin layers of the material together.” One [...]
  • McGroarty on Critical Minerals: “It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Infrastructure”

    The New Year is now a little over a week old and the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States is just around the corner.  And while some are still dwelling on 2016 (we offered our post mortem at the end of the year), the time has come to look at what’s in store. One of [...]
  • 2016 – A Mixed Bag for Mineral Resource Policy

    It’s that time of the year again.  And as people are gearing up for the New Year, we are taking the opportunity to take stock of the last twelve months, and want to highlight a few select notable developments of relevance to ARPN followers. From a mineral resource policy perspective, we saw some positive developments [...]
  • Through the Gateway: A Scholarly Look

    Over the course of the past few months, we have featured two classes of metals and minerals, which we believe deserve more attention than they are currently being awarded.  Expanding on the findings of our 2012 “Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology” report, in which we focused on a group of five “Gateway” metals which [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Scandium Embodies Materials Science Revolution

    As we near the conclusion of our journey “Through the Gateway,” we noticed that one metal has kept popping up in our coverage – Scandium. A co-product of Tin, we also discussed it in the context of the alloying properties of Gateway Metal Aluminum. It is also a co-product of Nickel. There is good reason it keeps popping up. For [...]

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