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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Critical Mineral Developments Continue in the Waning Days of 2020 — and Into the Early Days of the New Year

    If you’ve read our Year in Review post last month, you know 2020 was a busy year on the mineral resource policy front — so much so that even the last few days of December had several important developments.

    Most notably, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

    While most of the media’s attention was focused on the COVID relief provisions of the package, the behemoth 5,000+ page bill also included the Energy Act of 2020, which is not only the first comprehensive modernization of the nation’s energy policies in over a decade, but also contains a number of critical minerals provisions.

    Among them — included under Title VII are:

    Section 7001. Rare earth elements, which, according to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources summary, “requires the Secretary of Energy to carry out an R&D program to develop advanced separation technologies for the extraction and recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) and other critical materials from coal and coal byproducts, as well as mitigate any potential environmental and public health impacts of such activities. It also directs the Secretary of Energy to provide a report to Congress that evaluates the development of advanced separation technologies for the extraction and recovery of REEs and other critical materials from coal and coal byproducts.”

    Section 7002. Mineral security, “promotes a secure and robust critical minerals supply chain by (1) requiring the executive branch to designate a list of critical minerals and update that list every three years; (2) requiring USGS to conduct domestic resource assessments of critical minerals and to make that information publicly available; (3) requiring the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to publish critical mineral Federal Register notices within 45 days of being finalized; (4) directing the Secretary of Energy to conduct an RDD&CA program on the development of alternatives to, recycling of, and efficient production and use of critical materials (which may be carried out by DOE’s Critical Materials Energy Innovation Hub); (5) directing the Secretary of Energy and the Director of the Energy Information Administration to develop analytical and forecasting tools to evaluate critical minerals markets; (6) requiring the Secretary of Labor and the Director of the National Science Foundation to develop curriculum and a program for institutions of higher education to build a strong critical minerals workforce; and (7) reauthorizing the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program through fiscal year 2029.”

    Section 7003. Monitoring mineral investments under Belt and Road Initiative of People’s Republic of China, “requires the Director of National Intelligence to study and submit to Congress a report of investments in minerals by the People’s Republic of China. It further directs the Director to make recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior when designating minerals as critical per the designation criteria in Section 7002.”

    The President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and with that the Energy Act of 2020, into law on December 30, 2020.

    More critical mineral-related developments took place over the following days in the context of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, the conference report of which also included several critical minerals provisions. President Donald Trump vetoed the defense bill on December 23, 2021, but, in a first for the Trump presidency, Congress overrode his veto on December 28, 2020 in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on January 1, 2021, respectively.

    Among other provisions, the now-enacted NDAA mandates that – within five years – most Pentagon systems use rare earth that have been mined and refined outside of China. It further requires the federal government to give preference to U.S. suppliers of these materials in government acquisitions.

    With these provisions enshrined into federal law, the Defense Department’s recent efforts to enter into contracts and agreements with several rare earth element producers will likely continue in 2021 and beyond.

    Overall, it remains to be seen what the coming months will bring once the incoming Biden Administration assumes office later this month. We can reasonably expect some changes in emphasis and priorities when it comes to mineral resource policy, such as a greater emphasis on leveraging partnerships with allied nations, as well as recycling and possibly reclamation of new minerals from old mine tailings.

    The concept of a circular economy — a system which thrives on sustainability and focuses mainly on refining design production and recycling to ensure that little to no waste results — will likely gain traction.

    What will not change, as we have previously stated, is the urgency with which we need to treat the United States’ critical minerals challenge. With that goal in mind, it is encouraging to see that — even in the waning days of an arguably crazy year — stakeholders enacted several meaningful changes towards an “all-of-the-above” critical minerals policy.

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  • Copper’s Anti-Microbial Properties Strike Again: Another Possible Breakthrough in the Fight to Stop Coronavirus Surface Transmission

    The ongoing coronavirus pandemic may derailed public life as we know it, but it has not slowed the pace at which the materials science revolution is yielding research breakthroughs.

    Whether it’s the development of vaccines, rapid tests, new treatment methods or novel materials for personal protective equipment (PPE) at neck-breaking speeds – we’re seeing innovation unfold in front of our very eyes as materials science provides platform technologies and tools for virus research.”

    And while vaccines continue to dominate the positive news cycle on the COVID-19 front, we may be one step closer to having another weapon in the arsenal to fight this and future viruses:

    Corning Inc., a materials science innovator and leader in specialty glass and ceramics manufacturing, has partnered with Pittsburgh, PA-based PPG, which supplies paints, coatings, and specialty materials to develop a new paint that reportedly kills 99.9% of COVID-19 on surfaces. While this will not stop airborne transmission of the virus, the antimicrobial and antiviral properties of the mineral-based paint should help reduce transmission via high-touch surfaces in places like schools and hospitals.

    Not surprisingly for followers of ARPN, Corning Guardiant, which is used in the the paints and coatings for which Corning and PPE are currently seeking EPA registration, contains copper. Copper’s antimicrobial properties, especially when applied to surfaces, have been well documented and regularly discussed on our blog.

    Congressman Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional district, whom followers of ARPN will know as the co-chair of the recently-launched bi-partisan Critical Materials Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives (co-chaired with Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-CA) has lauded the development as a potential breakthrough, stating: “If we’re worried about transmitting viruses and bacteria through surfaces, if we can coat that surface with a coating that’s antimicrobial, then it will by definition kill the bacteria and stop the spread.” He added: “This can make a big difference when we have many antimicrobial, antiviral coatings that we would use in paints.”

    With materials science transforming the way we use metals and minerals at lightning speed, and with supply chain pressures looming large, the importance of the Critical Materials Caucus is only set to increase in the coming months, as it can become an important champion of potentially life-changing innovations like the one referenced above.

    Learn more about the COVID-fighting paints and coatings here.

    And learn more about the Critical Materials Caucus here and here.

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  • U.S. Senator and AK Governor for The Hill: With China Having Taken Control of Critical Mineral Supply Chains, We Need to Act Now

    Beijing’s threat to withhold potentially life-saving medical supplies and medications in the middle of a global pandemic, during which China has “taken control of [respective] supply chains around the world as part of its quest for global domination,” were a wake up call, write U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) in [...]
  • Russia Pushes for Global Rare Earth Market Share as U.S. Struggles to Move Forward With Critical Minerals Initiatives

    Russia is certainly making headlines this week.  Quite obviously, much of the media attention is focused around President Vladimir Putin’s declaration that Russia has approved a vaccine for the coronavirus (after less than two months of testing) — but developments in the critical minerals realm also warrant attention: A top Russian government official has told [...]
  • U.S. Senate To Take Up Comprehensive Bipartisan Legislation Containing Critical Minerals Provisions As Early As This Week

    The U.S. Senate may cast a vote on a comprehensive bipartisan energy legislation package that contains provisions pertaining to critical mineral resource supply issues as early as this week.   S. 2657 is the legislative vehicle for the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), a package consisting of several pieces of legislation, which reflect the “priorities of [...]
  • Moving Beyond the Report Stage? – Specter of REE Supply Disruptions Prompts Congressional Action on Critical Minerals

    The U.S. and China have resumed trade talks after last month’s meeting between U.S. President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka broke a deadlock — but key issues remain far from settled. Against the backdrop of both sides preparing for a protracted battle, Jeff Green, president [...]
  • Mamula and Bridges: Hardrock “Modernization” Bills Could Do More Harm Than Good

    “Does America stand for self-reliance and innovative discovery of critical minerals for our economy and national defense and security? Or will Congress drive the fatal stake through the heart of our struggling domestic metals mining industry?” According to a new Washington Examiner piece by Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar in Geosciences and ARPN expert panel member [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member in The Hill: U.S. Must Stop Shunning the Importance of Its Mineral Wealth

    In a new piece for The Hill, ARPN expert panel member and author of the recently-released “Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence” Ned Mamula laments the United States’ long-standing ignorance and even shunning of “the importance of its mineral wealth.”  In spite of the fact that, as he says, mining is “the one economic sector that meets the [...]
  • Trade Tensions Underscore Need for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    While 2018 brought the inter-relationship between trade and resource policy to the forefront, this trend is continuing in 2019.   Last week, the White House announced sanctions on Iranian metals, which represent the Tehran regime’s biggest source of export revenue aside from petroleum.  The sanctions on Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum and copper sectors represent the [...]
  • Lawmakers Introduce New Legislation Aimed at Changing United States’ “Bystander” Status in Race for Critical Minerals

    As pressures mount for the United States to bolster its position as a non-fuel mineral raw materials producer amidst the ongoing battery tech revolution, a group of U.S. Senators have introduced legislation to boost domestic production of critical minerals. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and [...]

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