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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Release of USGS’s 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries Once More Underscores Need for Resource Policy Reform

    The partial shutdown of the federal government at the beginning of this year had delayed its release, but last week, USGS published its 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries. Followers of ARPN will know that we await the publication’s release with somewhat bated breath every year, as especially “Page 6” – the chart depicting U.S. Net Import Reliance – gives us a window into where we stand as a nation in terms of mineral resource security.

    We’re not overly surprised, though, to see that there are no major changes compared to last year. The number of metals and minerals for which we are 100% import-dependent may have dropped slightly (from 21 to 18), but a closer look into the footnotes of our favorite chart reveals that for two of the minerals previously included in the 100% import-reliance category, Quartz Chrystal (Industrial) and Thallium USGS states that “not enough information is available to calculate the exact percentage of import dependence” this year. For the third mineral to drop out of the 100% import-reliance category, Yttrium, numbers have dropped to 95% with production in California’s Mountain Pass mine having restarted in the first quarter of 2018. That is a positive development, but hardly a seismic shift in domestic resource development.

    The number of metals and minerals for which we are 50% or more than 50% import-dependent is still at 49, down one from 50 – but with the above-referenced caveat of lacking data for two materials – so it may in fact be higher than last year.

    The fact of the matter is that U.S net import reliance remains too high, and has – with implications for our economy and national security. USGS’s comparing its net import reliance numbers with the Department of the Interior’s Critical Minerals List, released for the first time in 2017, underscores this:

    14 of the 18 mineral commodities with 100% net import reliance were considered “critical” by DOI. 15 of the 30 remaining mineral commodities with imports greater than 50 percent of annual consumption were also reflected on DOI’s list. Aluminum, listed at exactly 50 percent import-reliance on the 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries, also has “critical mineral” status as per DOI.

    Hopefully these findings provide fresh impetus for mineral resource policy reform, for which we saw incremental progress in 2018 – but are still awaiting further steps, including the release of the — by now long-overdue — report by the Department of Commerce subsequent to the 2017 presidential executive order on critical minerals outlining a “broader strategy” and recommending specific policy steps to implement it.

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  • Section 232 Tariffs on Aluminum and Steel on the Way Out?

    News headlines these days are full of doom and gloom. As the Guardian writes, “whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will interact with the nature of cognition to make us think that it is.”

    Against this backdrop, it’s nice to see a little – albeit cautious – optimism spread around here and there. In this particular case, it’s coming via our neighbors to the North. According to the Canadian Government, officials are hopeful that the so-called Section 232 tariffs on aluminum and steel imposed by the Trump administration last year, which were in turn followed by retaliatory tariffs by Canada, are on the way out.

    While government representatives have been cautioning that Canadian ratification of the USMCA, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal to replace NAFTA struck in 2018 might be delayed if the “the situation with respect to steel and aluminum is not yet resolved,” David McNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, has expressed optimism that “we’ll get there in the next few weeks.”

    As a Mercatus Center study showed late last year, the tariffs “appear to have been far more destructive to domestic industry than the administration anticipated.”

    As a result, more than 45 groups representing a wide range of business sectors renewed their call for an end on the Section 232 tariffs in 2019 in a coalition letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in January, arguing that

    “for many farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, the damage from the reciprocal trade actions in the steel dispute far outweighs any benefit that may accrue to them from the USMCA. The continued application of metal tariffs means ongoing economic hardship for U.S. companies that depend on imported steel and aluminum, but that are not exempted from these tariffs. Producers of agricultural and manufactured products that are highly dependent on the Canadian and Mexican markets are also suffering serious financial losses.”

    Both from an economic and national security perspective, doing away with the tariffs would be beneficial to all parties involved. Followers of ARPN will recall last year’s Defense Industrial Base Report listing nearly 300 weak links in the U.S. defense supply chain and stating that “a key finding of this report is that China represents a significant and growing risk to the supply of materials deemed strategic and critical to U.S. national security.” This includes Aluminum.

    When viewed in isolation and from the upstream end of the supply chain at the minesite, the U.S. is increasingly import-dependent for the aluminum it needs — and Canada, in the context of a long-standing integrated North American supply chain, has long been instrumental in helping the U.S. close the significant domestic production shortfall.

    As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty has pointed out in a piece for The Hill:

    “Particularly in the case of Canada, the U.S. tariffs ignore nearly 80 years of deep defense cooperation with our northern neighbor: Aluminum produced in Canadian smelters was central to the Allied war effort throughout World War II, during which the massive plant at Saguenay, Quebec supplied more than 40 percent of the Allies’ overall aluminum production. Today, Saguenay aluminum is on the U.S. tariff list.

    With agreement on USMCA, it’s time to reaffirm the importance of an integrated U.S.-Canadian Defense Industrial Base. As the Government of Canada’s official comments on the 232 inquiry noted, ‘open aluminum trade with Canada benefits the U.S. economy and its national security.’ With aluminum on the U.S. Critical Minerals List, with the U.S. producing only 39 percent of the aluminum it uses each year and Russia and China among our leading suppliers, it makes no sense to slap a 10 percent aluminum tariff on Canada.”

    Here’s hoping the Canadian government’s optimism is not misplaced.

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  • Metals in the Spotlight – Aluminum and the Intersection between Resource Policy and Trade

    While specialty and tech metals like the Rare Earths and Lithium continue to dominate the news cycles, there is a mainstay metal that has – for good reason – been making headlines as well: Aluminum.  Bloomberg recently even argued that “Aluminum Is the Market to Watch Closely in 2019.”  Included in the 2018 list of 35 [...]
  • 2018 – A Year of Incremental Progress?

    In case you hadn’t noticed amidst holiday preparations, travel arrangements and the usual chaos of everyday life – 2019 is just around the corner, and with that, the time to reflect on the past twelve months has arrived. So here is ARPN’s recap of 2018: Where we began. Unlike previous years, we started 2018 with [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for The Hill: With USMCA, Time to Take Strategic North American Alliance to the Next Level Has Arrived

    “Now that President Trump has won agreement to replace NAFTA with the USMCA — the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement — he has an opportunity to build on that accomplishment, and broaden the benefits of trade to strengthen national security,” writes ARPN Principal Daniel McGroarty in a new op-ed for The Hill. The next step, says McGroarty, [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]

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