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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 U.S. national security.

    In his latest installment of his series “Critical Minerals Alaska” for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley spotlights what makes the metal a critical mineral:

    “While not the flashiest of the 35 minerals on the United States Geological Survey’s critical list, barite plays an essential role in America’s energy sector.

    Barite got its name from the Ancient Greek word for heavy, barús, and it is the high specific gravity that earned this mineral its name that makes it a critical mineral.”

    Lasley quotes USGS which stated in its 2018 Mineral Commodity Summaries report that “more than 90 percent of the barite sold in the United States was used as a weighting agent in fluids used in the drilling of oil and natural gas wells.” Other applications include its use in as filler, extender or weighting agents in a variety of products ranging from paints to plastic and rubber. It is widely used in the automobile and metal-casting industries, as well as the medical field where its ability to block x-ray and gamma-ray emissions makes it the perfect aggregate in high-density concrete.

    Meanwhile, U.S. domestic production of Barite is declining, with only two mines and a temporary mining project active in 2017, according to USGS.  The exact numbers for domestic barite production were withheld for the 2018 Mineral Commodity Summaries report, but of the roughly 3 million metric tons of Barite used in the U.S, more than 75 percent is imported from China.

    With domestic production faltering, that number can only be expected to grow — and once more, China, which already supplies more than half of the world’s Barite and is the main import source for the metal used in the U.S. may step in to fill any void.

    USGS does not provide numbers on available domestic resources or reserves — but as Lasley points out, there are several metal-rich deposits in Alaska “that host intriguing quantities of this critical drill mud mineral.”

    In light of its properties and the supply and demand picture, Barite has earned its stripes as a critical mineral — now it is up to policy makers to devise a comprehensive policy framework that fosters the responsible domestic development of our mineral resources.

    Click here to read Shane Lasley’s full piece for North of 60 Mining News.

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  • 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 – so important, in fact, that Jeffery A. Green, president and founder of J. A. Green & Company and member of the ARPN panel of experts calls it “the single biggest legislative development in the rare earth sector since the 2010 Chinese embargo created an awareness of our military’s reliance on foreign rare earth materials.”

    The NDAA’s Section 873, “Prohibition on acquisition of sensitive materials from non-allied foreign nations,” amends Subchapter V of chapter 148 of title 10, U.S. Code by inserting section 2533c – which, among other things, effectively prevents the Pentagon from sourcing of Rare Earth Magnets from China.

    In response to questions from InvestorIntel, Green provides some more context:

    “The new law which sets an increased budget for defense expenditure prevents the purchase of rare earth magnets from China, which currently produces 85-90% per cent of the world’s rare earth magnets. Some 90% of rare earths consumed by the US military are produced by China.

    The new law takes effect immediately, but practically speaking, it will take the DoD some time to implement the law through regulation and to start including the prohibition in new contracts.

    To be clear, this law only applies to the use of Chinese NdFeB (Neodymium, Iron, Boron) and SmCo (Samarium, Cobalt) magnets, the latter being already subject to a previous law requiring domestic sourcing.

    The new law, 10 U.S.C. 2533c, closely mirrors an existing domestic sourcing law, ‘the specialty metals clause’, at 10 U.S.C. 2533b.  While the latter is a Buy American clause, the former states DOD will not allow rare earth magnets and tungsten in weapon systems that is produced by potential adversaries.

    The law explicitly prohibits rare earth magnets and tungsten from being ‘melted or produced’ in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. That means the production of the magnet can’t be in those countries, so importers and distributors can’t simply bring magnet block into another country and finish into a final part – the law is designed to reinvigorate rare earth magnet manufacturing outside of China.”

    As Green had previously stated in a piece for Real Clear Defense as the bill was being considered by lawmakers:

    “While a good first step, and one long overdue, Sec. 873 addresses just a small percentage of America’s import dependence for essential military components. In next year’s NDAA, Congress should consider expanding this provision, with input from the technical experts at the Department of Defense, to include other critical minerals essential to national security.”

    With the precedent-setting passage of the amendment, the groundwork has been laid for this to actually happen. Writes Green:

    “The DOD may ask in the near future for new materials to be added to 10 U.S.C. 2533c, so there’s a good chance that this precedent continues as the Trump Administration seeks to eliminate the strategic vulnerability of foreign import reliance for critical materials – this bodes well for prospective producers outside China and Russia.”

    Read the full InvestorIntel piece here.

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  • 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 [...]
  • Lithium – A Material “Coming of Age” is Case in Point for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    As we have outlined, last month’s executive order on critical minerals could have far-reaching implications for our national security and economic wellbeing.  If you needed a case in point – look no further than Lithium. One of the hottest commodities of the day, Lithium, as ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral [...]
  • Automakers Pledge to Uphold Ethical and Socially Responsible Standards in Materials Sourcing. Where Will the Metals and Minerals Come From?

    Late last month, international automakers made headlines when pledging “to uphold ethical and socially responsible standards in their purchases of minerals for an expected boom in electric vehicle production.” As Reuters reported, a group of 10 car manufacturers have formed an initiative to “jointly identify and address ethical, environmental, human and labor rights issues in [...]

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