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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Guest Commentary: Jeff Green On New Congressional REE Policy Initiative

    The following is a guest post by American Resources expert and J.A. Green & Company president and founder Jeffery A. Green

    The United States has placed itself in a very precarious situation with respect to its ability to produce and refine strategic and critical materials. Over the past few years we have willfully ceded our last remaining production capacity for rare earth elements to the Chinese who have readily adopted the role as the world’s monopolist when it comes to the production of these crucial elements. In fact, China now controls more than 90 percent of the global production of rare earth elements.

    While rare earths are small, yet critical materials essential to the proper functioning of society’s high tech items, smart phones, computers, and televisions, they are also essential for the proper function of numerous defense-related end items including aircraft and missiles. Without access to these materials, we risk having to revert to Vietnam-era technologies, not a prudent strategy for the world’s greatest fighting force.

    Compounding the problem, the only major domestic producer of certain rare earth products, a major publically traded United States Corporation, filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after compiling more than $1 billion in debt. The company subsequently shuttered and disassembled its U.S. mining facility and sold a portion of its assets to China to pay creditors. Thus, the United States was left with no domestic production capacity for certain strategic and critical materials. Any restriction on access to foreign rare earth elements would leave the U.S. without the ability to produce a host of defense-related components and in a risky and precarious security situation.

    Legislation recently introduced by Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA) would aim to rectify this dangerous hole in U.S. national security policy. The Materials Essential To American Leadership and Security Act of 2017 or METALS Act would require certain major defense acquisition programs (“MDAP”) to forgo a small fraction of their overhead costs in order to reestablish a domestic industrial base for rare earth elements and other materials deemed strategic and critical for defense applications. Aircraft and missile MDAPs which utilize strategic and critical materials would be required to contribute just one percent of their internal programmatic administration funds to create a working capital fund designed to reignite the domestic industrial base for strategic and critical material production and separation. The revolving fund, to be known as the Strategic Materials Investment Fund, would issue five-year, interest-free loans to domestic companies seeking to bridge the “Valley of Death” and provide an alternative to Chinese-produced materials. Additionally, the fund would reimburse defense contractors should they incur higher prices for procuring domestically produced strategic and critical materials.

    The METALS Act would support and strengthen our domestic industrial base by providing the necessary capital to companies attempting to ensure American independence from non-allied foreign powers and provide a safe and secure supply chain for the Department of Defense. Funding for the Strategic Materials Investment Fund is specifically derived from the Department of Defense’s internal programmatic administration funds to alleviate any impact on the procurement of weapons systems. The bill would in no way impact the quantities of weapons systems to be procured.

    The METALS Act is the first step toward reestablishing safe and secure domestic supply chains for strategic and critical materials and ensuring the United States always has access to materials essential for defense and national security.

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  • Cobalt – First Steps Towards Reducing Mineral Resource Dependencies?

    recent piece for InvestorIntel zeroes in on a metal which, due to its growing use in battery technology, coupled with a challenging supply scenario is increasingly afforded “critical mineral” status – Cobalt.

    A co-product of Nickel and Copper, the metal’s recent history, as author Lara Smith argues, has been “chaotic.” ARPN agrees that about sums it up. Criticism regarding the production conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — from which 62 percent of global refined Cobalt is sourced — mounted in 2016.  93 percent of the Cobalt refined in China – the world’s biggest Cobalt consumer – originates in the DRC, which, at 3,400,000 metric tons, is also home to the world’s largest Cobalt reserves.  Production conditions in the DRC, which in some cases include child labor and poor environmental standards, have lead battery makers to search for Cobalt sources outside the African country.

    Smith highlights Elon Musk’s ambitious claim that Tesla will “produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year by 2018” and that the Cobalt used “will be sourced exclusively in North America.”

    And indeed, it looks like there is a flurry of activity in this area:

    A Nickel-Copper mine in Michigan recently ramped up production of Cobalt-bearing nickel concentrate (we highlighted ithere), but to date our domestic manufacturers remain import dependent for 75% of the Cobalt they consume.  Smith features a new Cobalt development project – involving “a high-grade and primary cobalt deposit” in Idaho in her post — which may decrease this number going forward. Cobalt co-product production may furthermore be feasible in a number of other states, including Alaska, California, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

    As ARPN expert panelist and Benchmark Minerals Managing Director Simon Moores, who has called Cobalt the “most critical of the battery raw materials,” points out, demand for the metal is growing:

    “With a lithium ion battery production surge well under way – and Benchmark recently revising its megafactories tracker to now 14 that are under construction ranging from 3-35 GWh capacity – lithium ion battery demand for cobalt is set to exceed 100,000 tpa by 2020.”

    In light of these numbers, the above-referenced projects are welcome developments that will help ease our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources -– but they should ultimately be part of a comprehensive mineral resource strategy our country has been sorely lacking.

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  • China’s REE Stranglehold Comes Back Into Focus

    If the first few weeks with a new administration at the helm in Washington, DC are any indication, we will see more efforts to make sweeping changes in federal policy in the coming weeks.  One area where President Donald Trump promised changes on the campaign trail is trade – and specifically relations with China. In [...]
  • Interview: AEMA’s Laura Skaer – The Mining Industry’s Challenges and a Look Ahead

    For the last few months, politics has sucked up much of the oxygen in Washington, DC and around the country.  With the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States behind us, many of us are hopeful that the time has come to finally shift the focus away from politics toward policy. Against the backdrop [...]
  • 2016 – A Mixed Bag for Mineral Resource Policy

    It’s that time of the year again.  And as people are gearing up for the New Year, we are taking the opportunity to take stock of the last twelve months, and want to highlight a few select notable developments of relevance to ARPN followers. From a mineral resource policy perspective, we saw some positive developments [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Rhodium – Not Just Another Platinum Group Metal

    A rare, silvery white, hard and corrosion-resistant metal, Rhodium is not only one of Palladium’s fellow members of the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs); it, too, happens to be a Nickel co-product.  And, as is the case with Palladium, one of Rhodium’s main uses is in catalytic converters to reduce automobile emissions, as well as in industrial catalysts. Alloyed with [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Nickel – “The Metal that Brought You Cheap Flights”

    “It made the age of cheap foreign holidays possible, and for years it was what made margarine spreadable. Nickel may not be the flashiest metal but modern life would be very different without it.”  We couldn’t have introduced our next Gateway Metal any better than the BBC did in a feature story on Nickel and [...]
  • Event: Benchmark Minerals World Tour Comes to Washington DC

    If you are based out of Washington, DC or happen to be in town on October 21, here’s an event you should not miss: Our friends at Benchmark Minerals, a U.K.-based price data collection and assessment company specializing in the lithium ion battery supply chain, are taking their Benchmark World Tour to Washington, DC.   ARPN expert and Benchmark [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Of Pokémon and Co-Products – A Look at Gallium

    All over the world, people are wandering through the streets staring at their smartphones. Whether you’re part of the PokémonGo phenomenon that has taken the world by storm, or whether you can only shake your head, you don’t only have Nintendo to thank for.    One of the Co-Product Metals we’re focusing on this week as part of [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Aluminum Alloys – Versatility On Steroids

    Last year, researchers developed a material “that’s as strong and light as titanium, another expensive material, but at just a tenth of the cost.” They were able to achieve this feat by tweaking Aluminum’s alloying properties at the nano level. Aluminum’s properties as a stand-alone metal already make it one of the most versatile materials in engineering and [...]

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