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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.

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  • North Korean Brinkmanship Highlights Nexus Between Resource Policy and Geopolitics

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the important but oft-overlooked nexus between resource policy and geopolitics.   The latest case in point is South Korea, which, as ARPN President Daniel McGroarty points out in his latest opinion piece for Fox News, is navigating murky waters “talking sunshine and Rare Earths as North Korean war clouds gather.”

    For decades, South Korea has acquired strategic mineral resources it requires for its domestic high-tech industries from its sworn enemy North Korea via the South Korean state owned resource corporation KORES, which also happens to be 50% owner of North Korea’s largest graphite mine.

    Rumored nuclear warhead testing on behalf of the Pyongyang regime has triggered an “unusual degree of collaboration” between U.S. and Chinese leaders to discuss Kim Jong Un’s brinkmanship.  And while South Korea did shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the wake of its Northern neighbors’ 2016 nuclear tests, now, with South Korea’s presidential election to be held on May 9, leaders are not only mulling the prospect of re-opening said complex, but to even expand it.

    The question is “why South Korea sees North Korea – its sworn enemy – as a source for those materials, in the face of strong evidence that the revenue generated from those purchases is funneled into financing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.” 

    Says McGroarty:

    “South Korea can’t have it both ways. It can’t claim be under an existential threat from Kim Jong Un, only to reopen a hard currency spigot that will keep Kim and his cronies in power, and fund a nuclear weapons capability that will – by 2020, some national security experts say —  threaten the continental United States itself.”  

    McGroarty argues that South Korea would be well-advised to begin working with American suppliers to develop new non-North Korean sources of critical metals and minerals. After all, he says:

    “With U.S. naval strike groups sent North Korea’s way and calls for the expedited deployment of THAAD missile defense systems ringing out, one thing is certain:  It’s going to be very hard to convince the American people to go to the brink with a nuclear-armed madman on behalf of an ally who has helped bankroll the nuclear weapons arrayed against it.”     

    Resource policy does not occur in a vacuum — and that’s a message that should not just resonate with South Korea’s political leaders, but U.S. policy makers as well.

    Read the full opinion piece on Fox News here.

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  • The U.S. Tomahawk Strike – Syria, Russia … and China?

    While the world media mulls the impact of the U.S. airstrike on Syria in the wake of the sarin gas attack and marvel at the accuracy of the Tomahawk cruise missile, friends of ARPN are reminded that the rare earths critical to the Tomahawk’s terminal guidance system are sourced from China. An interesting sidebar to [...]
  • China’s REE Stranglehold Comes Back Into Focus

    If the first few weeks with a new administration at the helm in Washington, DC are any indication, we will see more efforts to make sweeping changes in federal policy in the coming weeks.  One area where President Donald Trump promised changes on the campaign trail is trade – and specifically relations with China. In [...]
  • Graphite: At the Core of Your Pencil, 21st Century Technology, and Geopolitical Resource Warfare

    It may be its most well-known use, but Graphite today is at the core of more than just your pencil – it is at the core of 21st Century consumer technology.  Just ask Elon Musk. The Tesla Motors CEO and futurist recently insinuated that the label “Lithium-Ion battery” may actually be a misnomer for the batteries that power [...]
  • Through the Gateway: “Fairy Dust” Supply Woes Loom

    As we continue our look Through the Gateway, comes a stern reminder by way of Canada that the geopolitics of resource supply represents a complex issue warranting comprehensive policy approaches.   And it literally concerns a metal that touches us — more precisely, we touch it — every day, too many times to count. A decision to [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Germanium – Semiconductor of the Future?

    Our first Zinc co-product, Germanium, is a silvery metalloid.  According to USGS, “in nature, it never exists as the native metal in nature” and “is rarely found in commercial quantities in the few minerals in which it is an essential component.” That said, the “most commercially important germanium-bearing ore deposits are zinc or lead-zinc deposits formed at low temperature.” Discovered [...]
  • 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, [...]
  • As Japan Retreats, US Dozes Off Again On Critical Minerals

    Over the course of the last few months, slumping prices have prompted Japanese companies to reassess their rare metals strategies and cancel cooperative agreements that were once considered a high priority. As Nikkei Asian Review reports, state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC) has cancelled a joint exploration contract for a tungsten mine in [...]

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