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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • REEs Back in Spotlight as Growing Awareness of Strategic Importance Has Trade Officials Remove Them From Tariff Target List 

    After a few years of relative quiet, Rare Earth Elements are back in the spotlight.

    Initially a target included on a provisional list of tariffs to be imposed on Chinese goods released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) earlier this summer, Rare Earth metals and their compounds have been excluded from the final list of tariffs announced earlier this week — which speaks to the growing awareness of their strategic importance in the United States.

    A provision in the recently-signed John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515) prohibiting the Department of Defense and its contractors from acquiring certain sensitive materials including certain REEs from the likes of Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea provides a recent case in point.

    Dylan Kelly, resource analyst with CLSA in Sydney, Australia, says the law “clearly highlighted how exposed the nation was to any kind of disruption to the Chinese supply chain,” and added that U.S. politicians “should be very aware of the corner they have pinned themselves into.”

    In the mining sector, the provision struck a cord.  As Curt Freeman, member of the American Resources Policy Network panel of experts, wrote for North of 60 Mining News:

    “Underscoring the interconnected nature of the global mining market, not 48 hours after the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, the mining industry began wondering out loud how they were going to produce rare earth element, tungsten, tantalum and molybdenum in the near future.”

    Against this background, news that a U.S.-based company “has begun ongoing monthly production of recycled lamp phosphors into separated rare earth products” in Nebraska is a welcome one. According to a Roskill report,  Rare Earth Salts (RES) “is expecting to break ground at the end of 2018 on an expansion to increase production capacity to 3,500tpy REO in a staged fashion. It plans to produce other separated rare earth oxides, focussing on neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium oxides in partnership with Minera BioLantanidos and Medallion Resources.”

    Analysts expect demand for Neodymium and Praesodymium – key components in permanent magnet motors used in EV technology – to increase.  Meanwhile, as Roskill points out:

    “For the USA, supplying domestic feedstock is only the first step in securing a supply chain for rare earth permanent magnets, as capacity to produce NdPr metal alloys and neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets in the USA is very limited. Unless there is significant investment into downstream NdPr products, it is likely that neodymium and praseodymium compounds produced in the USA would be exported to China, Europe and Japan, where high-quality Nd-Pr alloy and NdFeB magnet capacity already exists.”

    The long-awaited yet once again delayed defense industrial base study — findings of which are expected to focus heavily on China’s attempts to buy up or infiltrate key defense technologies showing that “rare earth minerals are particularly at risk” — will only underscore the urgency of the situation.

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  • ARPN Expert: To Counter China’s Mineral Resource Dominance, U.S. Apathy About Critical Minerals Must End  

    Followers of ARPN know that China is the big elephant in the room when it comes to the United States’ critical mineral resource supply issues.  As ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, an adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, and “Rare Mettle” author Ann Bridges write in a new piece for National Review:

    “Where U.S.–China trade and tariff issues are concerned, China now holds a powerful trump card. Many of the advanced-technology and strategic-defense systems upon which our nation depends will not function without Chinese rare earth parts — and alternative parts makers are not in place to fill our needs. Therefore, it might be a bad day at the bargaining table for the U.S. if and when China decides to play its rare earth card.”

    To explain the United States’ retreat from being the world’s top minerals producer and exporter in the 1990s and China’s mineral resource dominance, Mamula and Bridges offer a point-by-point comparison of Chinese policies  “with the results of past U.S. minerals policies and sentiment about mining — ranging from apathy about critical minerals to open hostility toward their domestic production.”

    While the comparison paints a bleak picture, there are ways “out of this mineral-dependency mess.” Friends of ARPN won’t be surprised that Mamula and Bridges point to presidential executive order (EO 13817), which has set the stage for domestic mineral resource reform.  The proof remains in the pudding and the Congressional record since the announcement of the executive order has been somewhat mixed.

    However, the bottom line, according to Mamula and Bridges stands:

    “As informed citizens, we should embrace and not shrink from U.S. mineral wealth. It is an important part of our American resource endowment. Like the Canadians, Australians, and other resource-rich nations, we should insist on and applaud a vibrant mining industry. Investment in the technology and energy sectors now needs to include mining, too, as it supplies us with so much and can also contribute mightily to the GDP.

    The math is simple: More American mining = less Chinese mineral imports.

    The only real, sustainable pushback against the Chinese mineral-industry juggernaut, which is burying the U.S. with critical mineral imports, is more domestic mining. There really is no other way.”

    Perhaps the release of the Administration’s long-awaited defense-industrial base study, which we’re expecting any day now as per the Defense Department’s top acquisition official, will inject some fresh momentum into domestic mineral resource policy overhaul efforts.  With Rare Earths particularly at risk, the fragility of the U.S. defense supply chain looms large.

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  • A Non-Flashy Yet Essential Critical Mineral – Barite   

    If you haven’t had of Barite, you’re excused – even for avid followers of ARPN Barite is not among the first that come to mind of when you think of critical minerals. It has, however, attained that status with its inclusion in the Department of Interior’s list of 35 metals and minerals considered critical to [...]
  • While Some Reforms Fizzled, Enacted NDAA Contains Potentially Precedent-Setting REE Sourcing Provision

    As we have noted, the recently-signed John S. McCain (may he rest in peace) National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), stands as a missed opportunity to enact several meaningful mineral resource policy reforms. Nonetheless, one provision of the signed legislation marks an important development for the realm of resource policy – [...]
  • A New Theater for the Global Resource Wars?  A Look at Antarctica

    At ARPN, we have long argued that we need comprehensive mineral resource policy reform.  One of the main reasons we have finally seen some momentum on this front is the growing realization that there is a global race for the metals and minerals fueling 21st Century technology and our everyday lives — something that our [...]
  • Space Force Plans Raise the Stakes to Overhaul U.S. Mineral Resource Policy

    Last week, the U.S. Government outlined plans to establish a sixth military branch – the United States Space Force.   According to Vice President Mike Pence, who announced the plans during a speech at the Pentagon, the new force would be led by a four-star commander, and funding in the federal budget would begin for [...]
  • Rare Earths Issue Back in the Mix As Trade Tensions With China Escalate

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the inter-relationship between resource policy and trade policy. While more recently, we looked at tensions in our relationship with Canada over tariffs on aluminum and steel, other areas of concern are coming into focus. Mounting tensions over trade with China have brought the Rare Earths issue, with which ARPN [...]
  • Chinese Worries over Critical Mineral Supply Should Provide Impetus for U.S. Policy Reforms

    Escalating trade tensions have brought the issue of China’s near-total supply monopoly for Rare Earth Elements back to the front pages of American newspapers. If that isn’t reason enough for policy makers to use the momentum that has been building for the formulation of a comprehensive critical mineral strategy and an overhaul of policies standing [...]
  • America’s Critical Mineral Issues are Largely Home-Grown

    A recent commentary piece by Printus LeBlanc, contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government, draws attention to the home-grown nature of America’s critical mineral resource issues and their geo-political context. LeBlanc sets the stage using the example of a relatively unknown Chinese phone company becoming the focus of Congressional concern because the Administration was in [...]
  • Green: Over-reliance on Foreign Mineral Imports “Fiscally Foolish and Politically Dangerous”

    In a new piece for The Hill, member of the ARPN expert panel and president and founder of Washington, DC-based government relations firm J.A.Green & Company Jeff A. Green stresses the national security risks associated with our over-reliance on foreign sources of supply for key mineral resources. Citing FBI Director Christopher Wray, who recently told [...]

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