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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • A Look at Gateway Metal Import Dependence: Copper – 25 Years of Rising Dependence

    If our trip Through the Gateway holds one lesson so far, it’s that old patterns and paradigms are out the window.  Advances in technology and materials sciences have changed the applications for many mainstay metals and are fueling demand.   As we have outlined, the same applies for numerous rare tech metals, which are primarily sourced as co-product metals in the refinement process for our Gateway Metals Copper, Aluminum, Tin, Zinc and Nickel.

    With access to these tech metals being contingent on the availability of their respective Gateway Metal(s), the geopolitical dimension of resource policy becomes all the more important.   Not too long ago, a USGS analysis painted a troubling picture, showing that across the board, our reliance on foreign non-fuel minerals has significantly increased over the examined 60-year time frame.

    We decided to zero in import dependence percentages specifically for our Gateway Metals, using the last 25 years of data provided by USGS in its Mineral Commodity Summaries.  A look at the trend line for our first Gateway Metal, Copper, which provides us with access to Rhenium, Molybdenum, Selenium and Tellurium confirms that the United States’ degree of import dependence for Copper has grown drastically since the end of the Cold War:

    Copper_dependence                                                                                        Source: USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries

    This needn’t be.  As we have previously pointed out, with our own reserves and at mining projects ready to come online, the U.S. would not only be able to become self-sufficient with regards to meeting Copper needs, but could even position itself to be a Copper net exporter.  In the process, the U.S. would also provide our domestic manufacturers with stable access to its co-products, which are some of the key tech metals we’ve come to rely upon to drive 21st Century innovation.

    We will review our nation’s import dependence numbers for some of the other Gateway Metals in separate posts, but a look at Copper alone makes clear that it is time for a new, more comprehensive approach to mineral resource policy.

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  • Is Lithium the New Black?

    At a time when mineral commodities have been slumping, one material is proving to be the exception to the rule, leading many to hail lithium as a rare bright spot for miners, amid cratering prices of raw materials tied to heavy industry such as iron ore to coal.”

     Via our friend Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Minerals and lead expert on the supply chain for batteries, we came across a solid analysis of minerals in clean car technology.  Bloomberg’s Liam Denning discusses the role of lithium as one of the key minerals at the heart of 21st Century battery technology fueling electric vehicles as well as portable devices and power storage.

    Contrasting lithium’s story with that of two other once promising metals, palladium and uranium, Denning outlines lithium’s rise to stardom, appeal and potential staying power.  His verdict – lithium is a mineral worth watching:

    “Rising demand that is largely indifferent to price, combined with lagging supply, is what commodity bulls dream of. This underpinned the boom in palladium, as well as the recent bull markets in oil and copper. It looks like lithium’s turn is coming.”

    With Tesla’s new Gigafactory slated to open soon, and other battery makers expanding their plants, chances are, he is right.

    Says Simon Moores:

    “[New supply from all lithium sources] will have a critical role to play in sourcing lithium for the battery supply chain. As things stands, there will not be enough lithium to supply the battery megafactories coming onstream.”

    With the net import reliance on foreign supplies of lithium hovering at more than 60% according to USGS estimates, this challenge will most certainly affect U.S. battery makers and downstream domestic industries.

    Click here to read the full piece.

    Click here to keep tabs on Simon Moore’s analysis of critical metals and minerals.

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  • U.S. Mineral Resource Dependency Continues to Spell Trouble

    For children, it’s the arrival of the first snow each year – for policy wonks, it’s the release of an annual study.  Whereas kids run to check the window multiple times a day once snow has been forecast, policy wonks continuously check for updates on the release of that study when it’s that time of [...]
  • USGS Rings Alarm Bell: United States’ Mineral Resource Dependencies Have Increased Drastically

    Without fanfare, and largely unnoticed at a time when all eyes in our nation’s political circles are on Iowa, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has released a report that should be required reading for all our policy makers. Analyzing data collected from 1954 through 2014 for more than 90 non-fuel mineral commodities from more [...]
  • Strategic Metals Flashback – or Flash Forward?

    Our Director of Research, Sandra Wirtz, unearthed this piece from the Time Magazine online archives  – “Strategic Metal: #1,” dateline October 13, 1941 – just weeks before Pearl Harbor.  It inspired me to do a little research on my own, with an eye toward our present-day approach to strategic metals. With war raging in Europe, [...]
  • Famine, food, and Rare Earths in Asia

    A sad, but not surprising, news story made its way across the wires this morning.  North Korea’s Kim Jong Il has approved a swap of sorts with its northern neighbor, China. The agreement will bring Chinese fertilizer and corn to his country’s famine-ravaged Hermit Kingdom in exchange for ceding to China rights to develop North [...]
  • Uranium find in India to reduce dependence on imports

    According to news reports, India has discovered what its government claims could be the world’s largest uranium reserves in a mine due to start operating by the end of the year.  The nation’s Department of Atomic Energy recently confirmed that the Tumalapalli mine in the southern state of Andrha Pradesh holds 49,000 metric tons of uranium, [...]
  • China’s Rare Earths attract Japanese Manufacturer

    In this story hitting the East Asia news wires, Showa Denko, a leading Japanese metals fabricator, announced it will be moving its Rare Earths manufacturing facility to China. This is an alarm bell for anyone who believes the U.S. must stake a leadership claim in the green-tech sector. Coupled with decreased Chinese exports, access to [...]
  • China’s Rare Earths reserves to be exhausted by 2025?

    Statistics show that rare earths reserves in China are down to 27 million tons and, at current production rates, may be exhausted as early as 2025. This data underscores the urgency of the rare earths crunch we have been discussing on this blog in recent weeks.  Having produced rare earths at rates exceeding 100,000 tons [...]
  • Peruvian Elections Raise Issue of Resource Dependency for U.S.

    The election victory of leftist Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala in this week’s runoff election has instilled fears of higher taxes and new restrictive policies in the mining sector.  Peru is a leading producer of precious metals, and the U.S. relies heavily on Peruvian imports of zinc, tin, gold, copper, and silver. (To see exactly [...]

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