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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • China’s Saber-Rattling over Rare Earths Card Getting Louder

    After months of rumblings, it appears that China is gearing up to play its “rare earths card” again.

    Citing people involved in a government consultation, the Financial Times reports that Beijing is gauging exactly how badly companies in the United States and Europe, including U.S. defense contractors, would be affected by plans to restrict exports of rare earth elements.

    According to Chinese media, REE exports had already dropped by more than 20 percent following the passage of a new broad export control law restricting sales of items relating to Chinese national security that went into effect on December 1, 2020. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has since proposed more specific language to impose controls on REE production and exports.

    The development ties into the overall context of a deterioration of Chinese-American diplomatic and trade relations against the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the buildout of 5G technology having emerged as a new frontier in the deepening tech war between the two global players.

    With China controlling more than 70% of global REE output, the specter of China weaponizing its position — yet again — is a serious threat to our national security and economic wellbeing. This is especially true when one considers that, while crucial, rare earths are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when considering our overall critical mineral resource dependencies — a fact for which USGS has just provided the annual reminder with the release of its Mineral Commodity Summaries 2021, which lists China 24 times as one of the major import sources of metals and minerals for which our net import reliance is 50% or greater.

    2020 has underscored the urgency of shoring up our domestic critical mineral resource supply chains, and has yielded important progress with regards to policies aimed at reducing our over-reliance on foreign, and especially Chinese metals and minerals.

    While the Biden Administration is — understandably — reviewing the preceding Administration’s policies, it is important that stakeholders realize that we can’t admire the problem anymore. We don’t have the luxury of time.

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  • Amidst Big Policy Shifts, Signs for Continued Emphasis on Securing Critical Mineral Supply Chains at DoE

    Parents of young children will know: Transitions are hard. And what is true for toddlers, is also true for government.

    Observers of the critical mineral resource realm have been closely monitoring the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. There were early indications that, unlike some other areas, the critical mineral resource realm might see a certain level of continuity. In December Of 2020, then-Assistant Secretary of State (Energy Resources) Frank Fannon declared that he expected the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) an initiative aimed at securing supply chains for metals critical for the clean energy transition, would continue in 2021, and policy statements made by the transition team suggested that, while emphases were certainly going to shift, efforts to secure critical mineral supply chains was going to continue taking a central role under an incoming Biden Administration.

    And while a number of executive decisions made during the young Biden Administration have already ruffled some feathers, remarks made by Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan and President Biden’s pick for the position of Secretary of Energy before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last week signal that the Biden Administration acknowledges the urgency of our nation’s critical minerals challenge and intends to address it head-on.

    Granholm, who hails from a state well-known for its auto industry, stressed the importance of securing domestic mineral resource supply chains:

    “If we are to build the supply chain for batteries, as one example, if we allow for China to corner the market on lithium or for the Democratic Republic of Congo to be the place where everyone gets cobalt when there may be child labor or human rights violations associated with that supply, then we are missing a massive opportunity for our own security but also for a market for own our trading partners that also may want to have access to minerals that are produced in a responsible way.”

    She added, “the responsible way is an important thing to mention — we know we can mine in a responsible way.”

    Thanking former Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, who emphasized the “national security imperative of critical mineral resource policy” for her leadership on the Energy Act of 2020, Granholm declared herself “very enthusiastically supportive” of the direction given in said act for the Department of Energy to work on critical mineral issues and rare earths, “both for jobs and energy/supply chain security [reasons].”

    At a time when China is stretching its tentacles and alluding to the possibility of — once more — weaponizing its stranglehold on critical minerals in general, and rare earths in particular, these remarks provide some hope that our nation will continue down the path towards a more comprehensive mineral resource policy begun under the Obama Administration and kicked into high gear over the past few years.

    Watch the entire U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Hearing to Consider Nomination of the Honorable Jennifer Granholm to be the Secretary of Energy here.

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  • USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries: Mineral Resource Dependencies Continue in 2020

    2020 may go down in history as the year in which our world changed drastically, but one thing remained largely steady, according to the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, one of our favorite reports which is hot off the press: Our nation’s mineral resource dependencies. However, as followers of ARPN will know, that is hardly [...]
  • 2020 – A Watershed Year for Resource Policy

    ARPN’s Year in Review — a Cursory Review of the United States’ Critical Mineral Resource Challenge in 2020 It feels like just a few weeks ago many of us quipped that April 2020 seemed like the longest month in history, yet here we are: It’s mid-December, and we have almost made it through 2020. It’s [...]
  • As Troop Withdrawals Make Headlines, U.S. Trailing in War Most Americans Are Not Even Aware Of: The Tech War With China

    According to news reports, the Pentagon earlier this month confirmed a further withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, as National Defense Magazine editor-in-chief Stew Magnuson writes in a new piece for the publication, the U.S. is engaged in a war most Americans were not even aware of — the “Tech War” with China. [...]
  • Take a Break from Election Scrolling – Watch Highlights from Webinar on Lithium Ion Battery, EV and Energy Storage Supply Chain Issues

    While it seems that for weeks, all eyes have been on the Presidential elections in the U.S., earlier in October, our friends of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence hosted its Washington DC Summit 2020, which brought together U.S. Government representatives and industry stakeholders to discuss materials challenges — specifically in the realm of lithium ion battery technology, [...]
  • U.S. Senator and AK Governor for The Hill: With China Having Taken Control of Critical Mineral Supply Chains, We Need to Act Now

    Beijing’s threat to withhold potentially life-saving medical supplies and medications in the middle of a global pandemic, during which China has “taken control of [respective] supply chains around the world as part of its quest for global domination,” were a wake up call, write U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) in [...]
  • China’s New Export Control Legislation Raises Specter of REE Ban

    Three weeks ago, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring a critical minerals national emergency aimed at expanding domestic production of rare-earth and other critical minerals in an effort to reduce dependence on China. Among other things, the order directs the Department of the Interior to explore the application of the Defense Production [...]
  • New Critical Minerals Executive Order Declares National Emergency, Invokes Defense Production Act

    In perhaps the strongest acknowledgment of the urgency of our critical mineral resource woes and over-reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) supplies to date, U.S. President Donald Trump this week triggered rarely-used emergency government powers to address the issue. On his way to a campaign rally in Minnesota, the president on Wednesday signed an Executive [...]
  • U.S. Over-Reliance on Critical Minerals — Are the Chickens Coming Home to Roost?

    The current coronavirus pandemic has shed a light on an inconvenient truth. We have become over-reliant on foreign (and especially Chinese) raw materials. As we previously outlined, “PPE has become the poster child, but whether it’s smart phone technology, solar panels, electric vehicles, or fighter jets — critical minerals are integrated into all aspects of [...]

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