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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
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  • Critical Mineral Uranium: No Import Quotas, But “Significant Concerns” Prompt Fuller Analysis of Nuclear Fuel Supply Chain

    Primarily known for its energy applications, (and thus falling under the purview of the Department of Energy) uranium may have not been much of a focal point for ARPN in the past.  

    However, the policy issues surrounding uranium – many of which have a familiar ring to followers of ARPN – increasingly warrant a closer look.  Last year, the Department of Interior included uranium in its list of 35 metals and minerals deemed critical from a U.S. national security and economic perspective – for good reason.

    As Congressmen Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rob Bishop (R -Utah, Mark Meadows, R-N.C.) outlined in an op-ed for Fox News earlier this month, “U.S. utilities rely on foreign sources for 98 percent of the uranium they use to fuel the nuclear power plants that provide 20 percent of our country’s electricity” – a fact that not only poses a significant national security risk, but harms domestic industry.

    They argued: 

    “Uranium [fuels] our nuclear Navy. But instead of buying from the domestic uranium mining companies that once thrived in the West, utilities are enriching adversarial countries like Russia and China.

    Following their carefully orchestrated geopolitical plan, Russia and its allies flood the global market with uranium from state-owned companies, making it impossible for America and other free-market economies to compete.

    Meanwhile, quietly and gradually, China has been buying up previously free-market uranium mines to control global supply.

    Rather than keep good jobs here at home and depend on our own resources to power the electric grid, the U.S. jeopardizes national security by relying on nations that have demonstrated their will to undermine our defense infrastructure and our economy, and to do us harm.

    As a result, America’s uranium mining industry is dying. U.S. uranium mining companies produced 721,000 pounds of uranium last year – only enough to fuel one nuclear reactor.”

    The Congressmen, writing on behalf of the bipartisan Western Congressional Caucus, called on U.S. President Trump heed a recommendation to impose an import “quota that reserves a relatively small 25 percent of the U.S. market for the domestic uranium mining industry.”

    The recommendation was initially put forth by two domestic uranium mining companies that in January 2018 had requested a Commerce Department investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, with a presidential decision on the findings of the DoC investigation expected by July 15 of this year. 

    Taking many by surprise, however, while agreeing with the Commerce Department that the United States’ reliance on foreign uranium “raise significant concerns,” President Trump last week announced that he will not impose quotas on uranium imports. This comes a  somewhat unusual move for a President who has invoked national security concerns when calling for restricting foreign metal imports elsewhere.

    The President instead announced the formation of a “U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group” to conduct a “fuller analysis of national security considerations with respect to the entire nuclear fuel supply chain.”

    In his memorandum announcing his decision on July 12, the President states:

    “I agree with the Secretary that the United States uranium industry faces significant challenges in producing uranium domestically and that this is an issue of national security.  The United States requires domestically produced uranium to satisfy Department of Defense (DOD) requirements for maintaining effective military capabilities — including nuclear fuel for the United States Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines, source material for nuclear weapons, and other functions.  Domestic mining, milling, and conversion of uranium, however, while significant, are only a part of the nuclear supply chain necessary for national security, including DOD needs.”

    Over the next 90 days, the The Working Group “shall examine the current state of domestic nuclear fuel production to reinvigorate the entire nuclear fuel supply chain, consistent with United States national security and nonproliferation goals.”

    We’ll be keeping tabs on the Working Group’s findings, so check back for updates.  
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  • Measuring Criticality in Today’s Interconnected World

    Against the backdrop of the current U.S.-Chinese tensions over Rare Earth Elements and the global battery arms race, Morgan D. Bazilian, Professor of Public Policy and Executive Director of the Payne Institute at the Colorado School of Mines, argues that the United States must “widen its consideration of critical materials past a limited understanding of security in a deeply interconnected world.”

    In a post for Scientific American, Bazilian retraces trends and events in the critical minerals sphere and points to the shortcomings of methodologies applied to date to measure criticality of metals and minerals. Writes Bazilian:

    “But how do we measure security or criticality in a meaningful way? The methodology used in the U.S. list essentially boils down to if it is deemed “essential” and if it is estimated to have a supply chain risk. Neither of those hurdles is precise, so proxies are used. That is typical in security assessments of all kinds.”

    Comparing various approaches used around the world and drawing from examples from the energy sector, he concludes:

    “The future will likely bring more globally interdependent markets and systems. As a result, it is useful to further encourage new quantitative and qualitative approaches to the issues of security and criticality—in both minerals and energy. Additionally, some of the tools developed during the early oil shocks, such as the development of the International Energy Agency, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and sending the Navy’s Fifth Fleet to protect key supply choke points (such as the Strait of Hormuz), are now being considered to protect access to critical materials.

    Finally, policy must take into consideration issues across the supply chain from raw materials through final manufacturing in an interconnected world. A narrow focus on domestic ‘dominance’ will not be sufficient, nor useful in addressing mineral criticality. The lessons from the energy sector are attractive as an analogy—a thoughtful application in a very different sector is required.”

    One should note that the piece was written before the release of the Commerce Department’s Critical Minerals Strategy in early June, which itself has made recommendations on how to improve assessments, such as to make supply chain networks more robust “so that domestically produced critical minerals can support our Nation’s economic security and national defense.”

    For example, the strategy calls for an “an interagency methodology to periodically assess market trends and competitiveness of the U.S. critical mineral industry and its downstream supply chains in order to recommend policies and strategies such as government investment in R&D, capacity expansion, stockpiling, and trade actions.”

    That not withstanding, Bazilian’s points of how to measure criticality – and particularly his emphasis on factoring in the degrees of interconnectivity in today’s globalized world remain valid – and provide some important food for thought as the debate over critical mineral resource security continues to heat up. 

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  • Commerce Department Releases Long-Awaited Interagency Report on Critical Minerals

    On Tuesday, June 4, the U.S. Department of Commerce released the “interagency report that was submitted to the President pursuant to Executive Order 13817, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.”  The report, which, according to the agency’s official announcement, “contains a government-wide action plan, including recommendations to advance research and development [...]
  • Paging the Department of Commerce – Australia Releases “Critical Minerals Strategy 2019”

    Last week, the Australian Federal Government released its “Critical Minerals Strategy 2019” – a blueprint aimed at positioning “Australia as a leading global supplier of the minerals that will underpin the industries of the future” – which according to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Sciences’s press release, includes the agritech, aerospace, defence, renewable energy and telecommunications industries. [...]
  • Release of USGS’s 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries Once More Underscores Need for Resource Policy Reform

    The partial shutdown of the federal government at the beginning of this year had delayed its release, but last week, USGS published its 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries. Followers of ARPN will know that we await the publication’s release with somewhat bated breath every year, as especially “Page 6” – the chart depicting U.S. Net Import [...]
  • Critical Minerals Alaska – A Look at Germanium

    In the twelfth and final installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley takes a look at Germanium – a lesser known yet vital ingredient in fiber optic cables and high-efficiency solar cells.  Followers of ARPN may remember Germanium as one of the key co-products for the gateway [...]
  • Metals in the Spotlight – Aluminum and the Intersection between Resource Policy and Trade

    While specialty and tech metals like the Rare Earths and Lithium continue to dominate the news cycles, there is a mainstay metal that has – for good reason – been making headlines as well: Aluminum.  Bloomberg recently even argued that “Aluminum Is the Market to Watch Closely in 2019.”  Included in the 2018 list of 35 [...]
  • Copper and the 2018 Critical Minerals List – Considerations for Resource Policy Reform

    While we’re still waiting for policy makers and other stakeholders to take further action, in 2018 an important step was taken to set the stage for mineral resource policy reform with the release of the Department of Interior’s List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy. Throughout the drafting stage [...]
  • 2018 – A Year of Incremental Progress?

    In case you hadn’t noticed amidst holiday preparations, travel arrangements and the usual chaos of everyday life – 2019 is just around the corner, and with that, the time to reflect on the past twelve months has arrived. So here is ARPN’s recap of 2018: Where we began. Unlike previous years, we started 2018 with [...]
  • U.S. To Partner With Australia on Critical Minerals R&D

    During an industry event in Melbourne, Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan announced that Australia and the United States are going to sign a preliminary agreement to foster mineral research and development cooperation between the two countries. The announcement comes on the heels of the release of U.S. Department of Interior’s list of 35 metals and [...]

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