American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 fiscal year 2020.  Citing “rapidly growing threats to our space capabilities” stemming largely from “China and Russia, our strategic competitors, which] are explicitly pursuing space warfighting capabilities to neutralize U.S. space capabilities during a time of conflict,” a 15-page report released by the Pentagon outlines the overall framework.

    Of course, a new theater of war requires a different class of weaponry — but work on this front started a long time ago.

    Writes the Washington Times:

    “The notion of space as a battleground, or a staging area for state-of-the-art defense technology, dates back decades. It first came into the public eye with President Reagan’s call for a ‘Star Wars’ missile program. Since then, the U.S. and its global competitors have made dramatic technological strides.”

    Laser cannon technology represents one of these “dramatic technological strides.”

    As the New York Post reported in December of 2015:

    “[W]hile visions of lasers powerful enough to kill people or knock aircraft out of the sky or sink boats have been a staple of sci-fi since ‘Star Wars’ was just a gleam in George Lucas’s eye, laser cannons are only now on the verge of becoming reality.”

    The U.S. Defense Department began testing for high-powered silent laser weapons that just need a few short seconds to burn a hole in targets miles away at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in January of 2016.

    Of course — followers of ARPN may have been waiting for the “resource angle” in this post, so here it goes: — said weapon technology relies on Rare Earth Elements (REEs), slabs or strips of which are used as gain medium in bulk lasers.

    Meanwhile, as Jeffery Green, president and founder of J. A. Green & Company and member of the ARPN panel of experts recently outlined:

    “The nation’s only domestic rare earth producer was forced into bankruptcy in 2015 after China suddenly restricted exports and subsequently flooded the market with rare earth elements. Adding insult to injury, the mine was then sold last summer for $20.5 million to MP Mine Operations LLC, a Chinese-backed consortium that includes Shenghe Resources Holding Co. Now, according to MINE Magazine, this same mine is exporting critical minerals to a processing plant in China—because the United States cannot process or refine these materials at commercial scale. Without a dramatic change in minerals policies, the United States will not be able to minimize the economic damage that will come when China decides to leverage its minerals monopolies against us.”

    So while a U.S. Space Force, creation of which will require legislation, is certainly going to be subject to much debate and will have many implications, we’re looking at a peculiar conundrum from a resource perspective:

    Staving off our “strategic competitor” China, which is threatening our space capabilities, will require the use of the very mineral resources for which China has a near-total supply monopoly. It would appear the stakes have just been raised to overhaul our mineral resource policies.  Are policy makers paying attention?

  • 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 followers will be familiar, back to the front pages of American newspapers.

    In a new two-part series for News @ Northeastern, Bill Ibelle argues that Rare Earth Metals are one of the “aces China holds in this high-stakes poker game,” and that U.S. stakeholders would be well advised to consider this leverage in policy considerations.

    Citing Northeastern University Distinguished Professor of International Business and Strategy Ravi Ramamurti, an expert in emerging markets, who says that “President Trump says he holds all the cards, but China’s monopoly on rare earths is one of the aces,” Ibelle writes:

    “A trade war could prompt China to cut off supplies of rare earth metals to American manufacturers. President Trump has already dragged rare earth elements into the conflict by including them on a list of proposed tariffs announced earlier this month.”

    While the tariffs must be considered part of President Trump’s stated – and well-intentioned- goal to decrease U.S. over-reliance on foreign metals and minerals, they are not without challenges. As Ibelle points out:

    “Efforts to find a new supply of rare earth metals, or devise technologies that supplant the need for them, are still in the early stages.”

    And, as ARPN followers know, China will not shy away from playing politics with its near-total supply monopoly  – and the risk of China cutting off supply for the materials the Trump administration is considering to target with tariffs — including, but not limited to REEs — looms large.

    To read Ibelle’s full piece, click here.

  • 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 [...]
  • China Jockeys for Pole Position in EV Industry

    ARPN followers know it’s the elephant in the room. China. Already vast and resource-rich, the country has demonstrated an insatiable appetite for the world’s mineral resources and has pursued an aggressive strategy to gain access to the materials needed to meet the world’s largest population’s resource needs. Thus, it comes as no surprise that China [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for Investor’s Business Daily: U.S. Mineral Resource Dependence a “Clear and Present Danger”

    Against the backdrop of growing threats to U.S. security – recent flash points involve Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – a new Presidential Executive Order “On Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States,” zeroes in on defense readiness. The E.O. requires heads from various [...]
  • Africa Taking Center Stage in China’s Quest for Resources

    It is “the single largest source of mineral commodities for the United States, particularly for resources like rare earth elements, germanium, and industrial diamonds,” according to the United States Geological Survey, which notes in its most recent Mineral Commodity Summaries report that “of the 47 mineral commodities that the United States is more than 50 [...]