Out with the old, in with the new, they say. It‘s new year‘s resolutions time.
With the end of 2017 having set the stage for potentially meaningful reform in mineral resource policy, we outlined a set of suggested resolutions
for stakeholders for 2018 in January of last year. And while several important steps were taken in 2018, as we outlined in our end-of-year recap
, most of the resolutions we spelled out remain valid 365 days later, though not without some tweaks or additions.
Without further ado, here‘s our updated list of suggested new year‘s resolutions for resource policy stakeholders:
Have a National Policy Conversation
The release of the DoI‘s Critical Minerals List and DoD‘s Defense Industrial Base Review in 2018 have helped publicly underscore the need for comprehensive reform. We also saw an uptick in resource resource policy related news making headlines in national publications. It’s a good starting point, because “while agency and department heads are in charge of rolling out a critical minerals strategy, what is needed in the coming months is a broad national conversation about our nation’s mineral needs and our over-reliance on foreign sources of supply, involving a broad variety of stakeholders from both the private and public sectors.”
The above referenced reports, along with the USGS’s “Critical Minerals of the United States” report released in late 2017 represent must-read materials for all stakeholders involved to develop an understanding of U.S. mineral resource needs and associated supply challenges and should form the basis for any meaningful policy discussions in 2019. As we said before: “ARPN knows how the Congress works; let’s hope Members delegate a key staffer or several to divvy up the USGS tome and really get familiar with it.”
Zero in on the Gateway/Co-Product Interrelationship
We were happy to see that in 2018, perhaps in part thanks to our informational campaign to highlight the importance of “Co-Product Metals and Minerals,” which included the release of a new report, awareness of the important inter-relationship of “Gateway Metals” and their “Co-Products,” is growing, and is becoming a part of the broader mineral resource policy conversation. (See for example Ned Mamula’s and Ann Bridges’s just-released book “Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence.) Harnessing the interrelationship between Gateway Metals – which include mainstay metals like Copper, Aluminum, Nickel, Tin and Zinc – and their Co-Products, many of which are increasingly becoming the building blocks of 21st Century technology, should be a focal point of any critical mineral resource strategy.
As we previously noted, “as important as Executive Orders are, they are not legislation, and history has shown that policy that is set and enacted by the stroke of the Presidential pen can just as easily be undone. Ultimately, for any real progress to grab hold and develop staying power, codification of any reforms yielded by these orders through Congressional action is highly desirable.” Some legislative progress was made in 2018 (see our recap), however Congress failed once more to pass key critical minerals provisions which were initially included in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, including the Amodei amendment ARPN followers will be familiar with. Congress should make an effort to finally pass these common sense provisions in 2019.
Factor Resource Policy Into Trade Policy
More than previous years, 2018 brought the inter-relationship between trade and resource policy to the forefront. The U.S. Administration won agreement to replace NAFTA with the USMCA — the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement in November of 2018. The talks had opened a window to drop the so-called Section 232 tariffs — named for a seldom-used section of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act — on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico, which stand in the way of a fully integrated North American defense supply chain and, particularly with regards to Canada, “ignore nearly 80 years of deep defense cooperation with our northern neighbor.” Unfortunately, the provision remained intact in the November agreement, but, as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty recently outlined in a piece for The Hill: “The opportunity is here, to use the momentum generated by the new USMCA agreement as a springboard to take the strategic North American alliance to a new level.” So for 2019, stakeholders should work towards removing Section 232 tariffs, and should ensure that resource policy challenges — especially when national security and defense industrial base issues are involved — are factored into trade policy decisions.
In the grand scheme of things, once more, our 2019 resolutions come down to: Discuss, Read – and Act. Here‘s hoping that we can look back at 2019 as the year a new and comprehensive critical minerals strategy helped make the U.S. stronger and safer.