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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 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.

  • Resource Policy’s Butterfly Effect – South Africa’s Landownership Issues to Cripple U.S. Defense Arsenal?

    Can the taking of a farm in South Africa cripple the American defense arsenal?  We’re about to find out – says ARPN’s principal Daniel McGroarty in a new piece for Investor’s Business Daily.

    Invoking the so-called “Butterfly Effect” – an expression used to describe the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere -, McGroarty argues that

    “[e]xpropriation of a white-owned farm in South Africa can lead to civil strife that could disrupt mining in that resource-rich country, depriving the U.S. and its allies of metals and minerals supply, crippling defense preparedness by sidelining advanced weapons platforms – while strengthening adversaries like China and Russia, which happen to possess the very metals and minerals South Africa mines and America needs.

    So like the butterfly wings that trigger a tsunami, South Africa’s expropriation crisis could disrupt U.S. defense readiness, and hand our global adversaries dangerous new leverage.”

    The 2014 labor unrest that disrupted Platinum Group Metal (PGM) production for a certain period served as a recent warning – which, among other issues led the U.S. Geological Survey to use South Africa as a case in point to underscore the “risk associated with high production concentration in a single country” in its “Summary of Methodology and Background Information” for DOI’s 2018 Critical Minerals List.

    The recent racial tensions only exacerbate said risk.  McGroarty explains how a potential faltering of South African supply would affect U.S. defense contractors and ultimately U.S. national security:

    “What metals and minerals do U.S. defense contractors source from South Africa?  The PGMs, used in jet turbine blades and high-performance circuit boards.  Chromium, used as a superalloy in jet fighters and tanks.  Manganese, required for National Defense Stockpile material electrolytic manganese metal, for which the U.S. is 100% foreign import-dependent.  Titanium used in jet fighter air frames, and vanadium, used in super-conductor electromagnets like the ones needed for the U.S. Navy’s new railgun.

    You can find all of these metals and minerals on the recently published U.S. Government Critical Minerals List, deemed essential “to our national economy and national security.”  And the U.S. is import dependent — in some instances 100% dependent — for all of them.

    Here’s where the impact intensifies. If South African supply falters, what are the alternatives for the U.S. defense complex?  For chromium, we can turn to Russia. For PGMs, Russia again. For manganese, China is the global leader. For titanium and vanadium, it’s China or Russia.

    In other words, civil unrest, with the potential for civil war, in South Africa may well increase U.S. critical mineral dependence on China and Russia — nations recognized as U.S. adversaries in defense doctrine, and presently subject to sanctions and trade tariffs.”

    As followers of ARPN well know, many of our mineral resource dependencies are largely home-grown, as the U.S. is home to known resources of all of the metals and minerals referenced as “at risk” above and many more.

    Laments McGroarty:

    “As a nation, we’ve simply slipped into a post-industrial mindset that we don’t need to be a primary producer, exacerbated by a mine permitting process that is among the lengthiest in the world. Our manufacturers — including our defense industrial base weapons builders — simply buy what we need when we need it, from wherever it’s mined. And it’s worked.

    Until now that is, as the butterfly’s wings are flapping in South Africa.”

    The choice is ours – are we going to sit idly by and hope that China and Russia won’t “exploit any metals vulnerabilities that emerge” from South Africa’s land ownership issues, or are we going to enact the reforms necessary to “encourage domestic production of the metals and minerals we need to support our 21st Century lifestyles, and the advanced weapons platforms that keep us secure.”

    Click here to read the full piece.

  • “Critical Minerals Alaska:” A Familiar Scenario for Tungsten – Chinese Domination and U.S. Prospects

    Pop quiz: Which metal has “the highest melting point of all the elements on the periodic table, (…) is a vital ingredient to a wide-range of industrial and military applications,” has made the Department of Interior’s final list of 35 metals deemed critical to U.S. national security, “yet none of this durable metal is currently [...]
  • The U.S. Hunt for Cobalt – a Rising Star Among Critical Minerals – Is On

    “Gold once lured prospectors to the American west – but now it’s cobalt that is sparking a rush,” writes the BBC in a recent feature story about Cobalt, which, as ARPN followers will know, is a “key component in the lithium-ion batteries that power electronic devices and electric cars.”  Once a somewhat obscure metal, Cobalt [...]
  • Senate Committee Chairman in Critical Minerals Hearing: No “Immaculate Conception” – iPhones, Fighter Jets, Solar Panels, All These Things Don’t Just Appear Out of Thin Air

    Earlier this week, the full U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to “examine the Department of the Interior’s final list of critical minerals for 2018 and opportunities to strengthen the United States’ mineral security.” Panelists included representatives from USGS and the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) as well as industry stakeholders and [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Full Senate Committee to Examine DOI Critical Minerals List and U.S. Mineral Resource Dependence

    Bearing testimony to the growing importance assigned to the issue of critical minerals, the full U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing to “examine the Department of the Interior’s final list of critical minerals for 2018 and opportunities to strengthen the United States’ mineral security” on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, [...]
  • Happy Birthday, America – Onward to Resource Independence Day?

    It’s that time of the year again – we load up our shopping carts with fireworks and burger buns, and gear up for parades to honor of the men and women who have fought, and continue our safeguard our freedom today. Many of us will have already traveled this week – and according to AAA, [...]
  • Copper – Key Building Block of Our (Green Energy) Future

    Sometimes the title says it all: “Copper and cars: Boom goes beyond electric vehicles,” writes Mining.com contributor Frik Els. And indeed, while there is some uncertainty in light of the specter of a trade war looming between the United States and China, triggering a market pullback, the longer term outlook for Copper remains “rosy” precisely [...]
  • “From Bad to Worse” – Why the Current Focus on Critical Minerals Matters

    Earlier this spring, the Department of the Interior released its finalized Critical Minerals List.  Jeffery Green, president and founder of government relations firm J.A. Green & Company and member of the ARPN panel of experts reminded us in a recent piece for Defense News why the current focus on our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources [...]