American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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:

    “The next battle for supremacy between the U.S. and Russia is shaping up to be a lot chillier than the last Cold War with the Soviet superpower.”

    Griffin’s temperature reference invokes the geographic location of the site of contention rather than the intensity of the looming “battle” – the Arctic.  And while said “battle” will likely not escalate into actual warfare, stakeholders would be well advised to pay closer attention to what is happening to our North, as it is currently the site of “the focus of a resource grab by Russia and China.”

    Just last month, the Russian defense ministry invited visitors to its website to take a “visual tour” of its new military base in Franz Josef Land, a huge remote archipelago in the Arctic which President Vladimir Putin visited in March of this year.  The base is the second Arctic one built in the Putin era, with the Russian military planning the installation of four additional military bases in region in the coming years.

    While Russia has been flexing its military muscle in the resource-rich Arctic, which it sees as a key strategic location - all while touting peaceful cooperation on the diplomacy front – China, notwithstanding its cartographical lack of an Arctic footprint, has also made a foray into the region over the past few years.

    According to the country’s State Oceanic Administration, China, which considers itself a “near-Arctic state,” views the region as holding “the inherited wealth of all humankind.”  Consequently, China has not only sought, and in 2013 secured, permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, but has also stepped up investment and diplomacy in the region, with Chinese President Xi Jinping incorporating two Arctic stopovers – one in Finland and one in Alaska – into his trip to the United States to meet with President Trump this spring.

    These moves, coupled with the normalization of previously icy relations between China and Norway, and a free trade agreement between Iceland and China, have led professors at Tsinghua University to conclude that “Bejing’s [new Silk Road] strategy does not stop at belt and road”, and rather includes “One belt, one road, and one circle,” with the circle referring to the Arctic circle.

    Meanwhile, the United States is “woefully behind” in the Arctic race, as former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp, who served as the State Department’s special representative to the Arctic, recently told Fox News, adding that:

    “We’ve got our minds on a lot of other things around the world, and we’re not focused on the Arctic. (…) Russia, on the other hand, is very connected. It’s part of their culture. They appreciate the riches, the oil and gas reserves that they have along that very long coastline, and they are looking to exploit it for their own prosperity.”

    China is obviously looking to do the same.

    As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty previously pointed out, the United States’ claim to the Arctic comes via Alaska, and what he said a few years ago, is perhaps even more pertinent today:

    “For the U.S., our Arctic claims come via Alaska – a.k.a. Seward’s Folly, and perhaps the best $7.2 million ever spent by the U.S. Government. Across a range of metals and minerals, expect Alaska – and by extension, our Arctic claims – to play a key role in resource supply in the 21st century. Forget the folly: let’s make that William Seward, futurist.”

    In this context, one can only hope that the recent settlement between the EPA and the Pebble Partnership over the Pebble Deposit in Alaska – albeit years overdue – will be part of a growing realization that it is time to assertively stake the United States’ claim in the Arctic and near-Arctic environs.  The other players have made it clear that they will not wait for us.

  • Greenland’s mining decisions likely to refuel race for Arctic riches

    In what may become a groundbreaking decision, Greenland’s parliament has voted to lift a long-standing ban on uranium mining, opening the door to Rare Earths exploration and development in the Artic territory. A-semi-autonomous part of Denmark, Greenland is hoping this decision and the expected industrial boom will bring it closer to achieving economic and ultimately legal independence from Denmark.

    A separate decision to award London Mining PLC a thirty-year license to build and run a giant ore mine ties into the same overall context of attempting to “wean Greenland from Danish economic support,” and turning to new partners, including China – as evidenced by the fact that London Mining PLC is a British company that has worked with Chinese industry in the past.

    Not surprisingly, Investor Intel’s Robin Bromby has taken a closer look at China’s involvement in Greenland, which as we have argued, seems to see the territory as its key point of access to the Arctic’s vast mineral riches. Retracing a series of events that all but confirm China’s serious interest in opening that door to the Arctic (including its recent ascension to observer status on the Arctic council), Bromby says:

    “So this week we see a news report that says ‘China agreed with the Arctic Council that development in the Arctic region should abide by local regulations and environmental requirements, according to a senior official. China pledged to make a greater contribution through its new official observer role in the council, Jia Guide, deputy director-general with the Department of Treaty and Law under China’s Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday.’

    The Xinhua news agency quoted Jia saying “resource development in the Arctic was a possibility, but not a priority for China,”

    Oh really?

    It was diplomatic of Jia, speaking in Whitehorse, and then his stressing how important environmental protection was to his country.

    So we have [to] wait and see.”

    Indeed we will. The lifting of the mining ban is only a first step, and other laws may still have to be changed before any REE development can occur. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to expect that the above-referenced decisions will add some spark to the race for Arctic riches.

    As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty has argued, the United States’ claim to the Arctic comes via Alaska. His call to action from a few years back becomes all the more relevant as more and more players show up at the Arctic circle:

    “For the U.S., our Arctic claims come via Alaska – a.k.a. Seward’s Folly, and perhaps the best $7.2 million ever spent by the U.S. Government. Across a range of metals and minerals, expect Alaska – and by extension, our Arctic claims – to play a key role in resource supply in the 21st century. Forget the folly: let’s make that William Seward, futurist.”

    As indicated in a recent outline of the state of mining operations in Alaska by ARPN expert Curt Freeman, there is plenty of potential in The Last Frontier. Now more than ever would be a good time to unleash it.

  • Antarctic mineral riches in the cross-hairs of resource wars

    The global race for resources has countries look for new ways to meet their mineral resource needs. We’re now used to seeing headlines about mineral riches in the Arctic, beneath the ocean seabed, and even asteroid mining. The latest region in the cross-hairs is Antarctica, with – you guessed it – China aggressively pursuing its [...]
  • The Arctic: a region in the crosshairs of mining interests

    E&E reporter Manuel Quinones explores U.S. mining interests in the Arctic and related geopolitical and legal issues in a piece for GreenWire. Portraying the region as a hotbed of territorial disputes precisely because of its mineral potential, Quinones quotes American Resources principal Daniel McGroarty, who points to the pivotal role Alaska can and must play [...]
  • The race for Arctic riches – Enter Korea

    The race for Arctic riches is getting more crowded, with another player throwing its hat into the ring via Greenland as point of entry. According to a Reuters news story, a Korean state-owned company has inked an agreement with a Greenland mining firm “to seek opportunities for joint minerals projects, exploiting deposits of rare earths [...]
  • Resource Wars: EU zeros in on Arctic mineral riches

    While many of us in the continental U.S. are enjoying record-breaking temperatures this March, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton probably needed her down coat as she embarked on her new mission: laying the groundwork for a common EU policy on the Arctic. Traveling near the North Pole earlier this month, Ashton made a case [...]
  • A new dimension of Resource Wars – China throws hat into Arctic ring

    Having intensified over the past few months with Russia reportedly willing to risk a new “Cold War” over the area’s vast resources, the geopolitics of the Arctic’s race for mineral riches has just been elevated to a whole new level with China having thrown its hat into the ring. According to the Wall Street Journal’s [...]
  • The race for Arctic riches

    A handful of countries situated near the top of the world are racing to firm up their territorial claims to untold amounts of oil, natural gas, gold, zinc, copper and other metals. A new piece from the U.K. Guardian highlights this renewed scramble for resource rights beneath the Arctic icecap. I treated this story in [...]