American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Independence Day 2020 – Critical Mineral Resource Policy in a Watershed Year

    It’s that time of the year again – Independence Day is upon us.  This year, things are different, though. If you’re like us, it kind of snuck up on you, and it took seeing the booths selling fireworks in the parking lots to realize it’s July already.  After all, we just came off the longest month of March ever, right?

    While parades and fireworks to honor the men and women who have fought for, and continue to safeguard our freedom today, have been canceled in many places, July 4th still provides us with an opportunity to pause and take stock of where we are as a nation — and this year, there is much to reflect on.

    From a critical mineral resource perspective, we at ARPN have always used the occasion of Independence Day to remind ourselves that “while we cherish the freedom we are blessed with in so many ways, we must not become complacent, as there are areas where we’re increasingly becoming less independent” — with our reliance on foreign mineral resources being a case in point. 

    Today, this statement rings more true than ever, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic having exposed the vast extent of our mineral resource supply chain vulnerabilities. As ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argued in a piece for Real Clear Politics in March, “[t]he rapid spread of the coronavirus is doing more than claim an alarming number of human hosts — it is burning through decades of bureaucratic inertia and plain inattention as the American economic ecosystem has become dangerously dependent on China.”

    As followers of ARPN know — and as our nation as a whole is increasingly realizing —the United States’ reliance on foreign non-fuel minerals has significantly increased over the course of the past 65 years, both in terms of number and type, as well as as a percentage of import reliance.  Along with the rise in import dependency came a drastic shift in provider countries.

    Whereas the number of non-fuel mineral commodities for which the United States was greater than 50% net import-dependent was 28 in 1954, this number increased to 47 in 2014.  And while the U.S. was 100% net import reliant for 8 of the non-fuel commodities analyzed in 1954, this total import reliance increased to 11 non-fuel minerals in 1984, and currently stands at 17.  In the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries report, China continues to be the elephant in the data room, and is listed 25 times as one of the major import sources of metals and minerals for which our net import reliance is 50% or greater.

    This spells trouble, and this realization is going mainstream, as indicated by this week’s Wall Street Journal discussion of a report by consulting firm Horizon Advocacy, which (looking specifically at rare earths) warns that “China’s rare earths positioning both implicates and threatens the entire global system,” and that “China will not rule out using rare earth exports as leverage (…).”

    Thankfully, there are indications that policymakers on Capitol Hill, in Cabinet Departments and in the White House are taking the issue seriously, and, after years of inaction, a flurry of current policy initiatives aimed at alleviating our supply chain vulnerabilities points to the U.S. Government viewing strategic materials and critical minerals issues with a new seriousness.

    Underscoring the urgency of the situation largely from a battery tech minerals perspective, Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and a member of the ARPN panel of experts, told the committee that “(…) the consequences of a long-term cutoff of some of the critical materials that we’ve discussed today would just be disastrous for the U.S. economy. (…) The threat of China…is becoming more and more evident every day even during this pandemic.” 

    How we proceed forward over the next few months of 2020 could become a watershed moment for United States. Will we continue to tinker around the edges of policy reform, or will we finally take significant steps towards U.S. mineral resource independence? 

    As Moores concluded in his Senate testimony with regards to securing critical mineral resource supply chains:

    “It is not too late for the US but action is needed now.”

  • Materials Science Revolution in the Fight against COVID — Copper Continues to Lead the Charge

    Copper is arguably one of the key mainstay metals and building blocks of modern society.  However, in recent years — and most certainly over the past few months as the coronavirus pandemic has spanned the globe, its antimicrobial properties — known and appreciated already by the Ancients — have re-entered the spotlight.

    Reports of novel ideas on how to harness copper’s properties in the fight against COVID and future pandemics, ranging from the development of copper-infused face masks to copper-alloyed cell phone cases, are a testament not only to the metal’s properties, but the promise of the ongoing materials science revolution, which is yielding research breakthroughs at neck-breaking speeds. 

    While a recently-introduced Assembly bill in New York State seeks to reduce the spread of infection by requiring all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces, including door handles, bathroom fixtures, bed rails and handrails going forward, copper’s antimicrobial potential is already finding practical application in Hong Kong.  

    As we reported, Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) announced in May that the government was going to distribute free reusable copper-containing masks “capable of immobilising [sic] bacteria, common viruses and other harmful substances” to all its citizens.

    Meanwhile, Australia’s Northern Territory also made headlines, as its Department of Trade, Business and Innovation became “the first organisation to deploy antimicrobial ACTIVAT3D copper throughout their building to help fight the spread of COVID-19.”

    Developed by a Darwin-based company, ACTIVAT3D copper has been tested by a clinical trial speciality lab accredited by the Australian National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), and was shown to kill off 96 percent of the virus in two hours and 99.2 percent of the virus in five hours. 

    According to news reports, the company has developed a “process to coat stainless-steel door touch plates and handles in under 5 minutes,” which was then applied throughout the NT Department of Trade, Business and Innovation building.

    While this technology and its associated test results have reportedly sparked global interest as governments and private companies look for proactive ways to protect their communities, the clothing industry is not sitting idly by. 

    According to British news sources, a hi-tech clothing firm claims to have created the world’s first ‘disease-proof’ jacket — a “super garment” designed to kill bugs and viruses like the novel coronavirus by also harnessing copper’s antimicrobial properties.  In what may — at least for now — limit its marketability, the futuristic-looking jacket made from 11km of copper has the hefty price tag of $895. 

    So while it may be unlikely that many of us will be wearing “full metal jackets” – as the super garment has been dubbed – anytime soon, there is a good chance that we will be harnessing copper’s properties in fabrics and garments.   Already, companies have developed copper-infused T-shirts to double as wound dressings, and are now making hospital gowns and bedding to battle hospital-acquired infections, and more and more companies are beginning to offer copper-infused face masks.  

    Speaking of face masks — here’s another testament to materials science:

    Like them or not, they have become a staple in our daily lives, but you’ve probably noticed that effective communication is hard when half your face is hidden — it’s hard to show emotions.  For some, like children, the elderly and the hearing impaired, this issue is even greater, particularly in the caregiving context, where being shown empathy is a big contributing factor to a patient’s wellbeing, especially when loved ones are not allowed to visit in person.  

    Initially looking for a way to make the contact between caregivers and patients less impersonal, Swiss researchers have now developed a technology to create a completely transparent biomass-based surgical mask.   Product launch could take place as early as the spring of 2021.  

    Who knows, maybe the next step will be copper-infused transparent surgical masks. With the materials science revolution going strong, the next breakthrough may be just around the corner. 

  • Experts to U.S. Senators: It’s “Not Too Late for the U.S.” to Secure Mineral Supply Chains Post-COVID, “But Action is Needed Now”

    In a timely hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, witnesses discussed the urgency of securing U.S. mineral supply chains in a post-COVID context.  Committee Chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has long been an advocate of comprehensive mineral resource policy reform set the stage arguing that “[t]he pandemic has brought [...]
  • State Department Hopeful More Nations Will Join Energy Resource Governance Initiative in the Wake of COVID

    ***posted by Daniel McGroarty*** As demand for renewable energy continues to grow despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of State hopes to expand the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) – an initiative launched last year by the United States and joined by ten other countries, including Canada, Australia and Brazil – aimed at improving supply chain security [...]
  • National Security Expert Calls for Securing Domestic Mineral Resource Supply Chains: “Crisis Borne from China’s Predation and Our Own Neglect No Longer Theoretical”

    After decades of watching “China become the world’s workshop as it snatches up industries, jobs and critical supply chains, [i]t’s time to restructure the global economy in our favor, and that means decisive action to shore up our most important industries,” writes Brig. Gen. John Adams (U.S. Army, retired), president of national security consulting firm Guardian Six [...]
  • ARPN’s Wirtz: “COVID Should Be the Last Warning the U.S. Needs to Bolster Mineral Resource Security”

    ***Posted by Daniel McGroarty*** “The current coronavirus pandemic has exposed significant supply chain challenges associated with our over-reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) raw materials,” — writes ARPN’s Sandra Wirtz in a new piece for The Economic Standard:   “PPE has become the poster child, but whether it’s smart phone technology, solar panels, electric vehicles, or [...]
  • Materials Science Revolution Continues to Yield Breakthroughs – a Look at Scandium

    Did you turn on the TV to watch the SpaceX Crew Dragon take off en route to the International Space Station yesterday only to be disappointed?  The long-awaited historic first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly nine years has been postponed due to weather, but there’s a still good chance we will [...]
  • Event Alert – This Week: EV Supply Chain Festival 2020

    “Cancelled.”  It’s a word we’ve become all to familiar with in recent week.  Sports.  Concerts.  Conferences.  As a consequence of the current Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen a slew of festival cancellations in recent weeks.  Thankfully, 21st Century technology (powered by critical metals and minerals) has made it possible to shift over to virtual get-togethers, and [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member: U.S. Must Turn to Building Out Critical Mineral Supply Chains Securing Both Inputs and Outputs

    Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), long one of the leaders on Capitol Hill pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s mineral resource policy, addressed the challenges of our nation’s over-reliance on foreign – and especially China-sourced critical metals and minerals against the backdrop of the current Coronavirus pandemic in a post [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member on Globalization, Supply Chains: “What We Thought the Future Was Going to Look Like May Change Markedly”

    Over the past few weeks, the spread of the coronavirus has exposed the supply chain challenges associated with an over-reliance on foreign raw materials.   With the effects being felt across broad segments of manufacturing, supply chain security — for medical devices, for personal protective equipment (PPE), pharmaceuticals, and beyond — is (finally) becoming one [...]