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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 cabinet departments to submit to the President policy recommendations for strengthening the U.S. defense industrial base.

    The problem, as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty outlines in a new commentary for Investors Business Daily, runs far deeper than scenarios in which “there is only one U.S. company that can repair submarine propellers – (…) Our metals and minerals dependency on foreign sources of supply is great and growing.”

    ARPN followers are familiar with the overall picture: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, we are 100% reliant on foreign imports for 20 metals and minerals. For another 50, we are more than 50% import dependent – with China being a leading supplier for 28 of the 50. 

    McGroarty points to fused aluminum oxide to underscore the severity of the situation, arguing that “there’s nothing quite like a raw material shortage to bring the lengthiest supply chain to a standstill:” 

    While we are more than 75% import dependent for our annual domestic fused aluminum oxide supply, according to USGS, defense-grade aluminum fused oxide is even harder to come by, leaving our import dependency for this material at 100%, with the world’ leading providers being China and Venezuela – none of which are the poster children of reliable trading partners. 

    Says McGroarty:

    “In announcing the Executive Order, Navarro noted that it ‘does not silo defense, the economy and trade and the workforce,’ but embraces ‘all the interconnections between a strong manufacturing base, a strong industrial base, a strong workforce … that strengthen our tax base which … allows us to buy the material and weapons.’

    A fine and expansive statement, to which we should make a one-word amendment: Instead of buying the strategic materials used in U.S. weapons platforms, whenever we can, we should be mining that material here at home.

    And that requires reversing the slide that has seen the U.S.’s share of global mining exploration investment in steady decline the past two decades, even as the length of the federal permitting process has doubled. Here, we need not wait for the President’s Defense Industrial Base report; we should press for passage of critical minerals legislation now before the Congress, with meaningful permitting reform.”

    McGroarty has additional suggestions as to what can be done to foster a policy environment conducive to harnessing our nation’s arguably vast mineral potential, and calls for the realization of the strategic importance of mainstay metals like Copper, which in the tech metal era, serve as “Gateway metals” to other critical minerals. 

    He concludes:

     “Defense readiness has long been a key bulwark of American strength — and worrying about it has an equally lengthy pedigree. In his oft-quoted farewell address, in a largely overlooked passage, President Dwight Eisenhower warned: ‘We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.’ That was 1961, at the height of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War.

    In 2017, with threats emanating from Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang and Tehran, this is one instance where it would pay for America to Be Like Ike.” 

    The time for a strategic overhaul of our mineral resource policy is now. 

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  • 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 of its key components is Scandium – which explains the first syllable of its somewhat curious name, Aluminum being the middle-portion, with the “M” standing for Magnesium.

    It is new applications like these that are making Scandium an increasingly indispensable tech metal, particularly in the context of the lightweighting revolution – a development marked by the “growing imperative to lightweight transportation, buildings, and infrastructure systems.” 

    Scandium gives superplasticity to Aluminum alloys, making them more resistant to strain and bending forces, increasing the alloy’s welding capability, and allowing for the usage of replacing heavier metals with lighter-weight materials like Aluminum.  Aircraft manufacturers have long been interested in Scandium and Scandium-alloyed Aluminum materials because use of Aluminium-Scandium alloys has helped reduce aircraft weights by 15% to 20%, without compromising the strength of the building material.

    It’s a lesson learned long ago by the Soviet Union – whose MIG fighter series was — and in the Russian era, still is – dependent on Scandium, which the Soviets had and the West lacked.  So the geopolitics of Scandium supply is an old story, setting up for a new chapter in our tech-driven 21st Century.  (Add in the need for a reliable refined Aluminum supply, including smelting, which these days depends heavily on Canadian facilities, and it’s clear our supply chain dependencies are interlaced – but that’s a post for another day.)

    In the form of Scalmalloy, with its potential to ultimately help reduce emissions, industry insiders believe the lightweighting revolution will quickly expand from the transportation sector to infrastructure projects.  For Scandium, some expect demand to soar as high as by 800% over the next decade.

    However, there are challenges. A recent post on Investor Intel explains:

    “The problem the aircraft manufacturers face in adoption of Scandium alloys en masse is not one of price or desirability[-] it is of supply. With no primary mines and no sizeable supply[,] there could at some point be an absolute absence of Scandium supply for either competition reasons or geopolitical considerations.”

    Indeed, 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.

    The potential for Scandium to “take off” is clearly there. However, for this to happen, Investor Intel’s Christopher Ecclestone cautions that supply has to be secured first:

    “It is clear that the industry wants to apply the benefits that Scandium brings but it is not going to go out on the limb and hope that the adage ‘Build it and they will supply us’ proves to be true. As we all know that train is heading down the track fullspeed towards Tesla that has foolishly failed to secure its supply of Cobalt and Lithium for the future. The likes of Boeing and Airbus are not so naïve.

    Thus when a significant supply of Scandium is guaranteed then the synergies between aeronautics and Scandium mining will come into play and the uptake of product will be potentially enormous.”

     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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  • 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 [...]
  • Through The Gateway: A Look at Gateway Metals, Co-Products and the Foundations of American Technology

    The following is an overview of our “Through the Gateway” informational campaign, in which we outline the importance of Gateway Metals and their Co-Products. Here, we expand on the findings of our “Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology” report, in which we focused on a group of five “Gateway Metals,” which are not only critical to manufacturing and [...]
  • Through the Gateway: The Geopolitics of Co-Product Supply – a Look at Scandium

    Throughout ARPN’s work, we have consistently highlighted the geopolitical dimension of mineral resource policy.  Where we source (or fail to source) our metals and minerals is an often forgotten – or ignored – factor, with implications for our domestic manufacturers, and, at times, even for our national security. Case in point – and in keeping [...]
  • Through the Gateway – Scandium: A Co-Product Metal Ready To Take Off

    We have already established that Indium is becoming a hot tech commodity. Its fellow Tin co-product Scandium is another metal with huge potential in high-tech applications. Its electrical and heat resistant properties lend itself to the application in solid oxide fuel cells, and its optical properties can be used for high-intensity lamps.  The biggest opportunities for Scandium, [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Vanadium – Next-Gen Uses Drive Co-Product Challenge

    As we continue our look “Through the Gateway,” one thing has become abundantly clear already:  Beyond their traditional uses, both Gateway Metals and their Co-Products have become building blocks of our renewable energy future.  This held true for Copper and its Co-Products, but it is also equally true for Aluminum and its Co-Products. While Gallium’s [...]

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