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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 see history unfold before our eyes in a few days, as a commercial spacecraft is transporting NASA astronauts into orbit in the very near future. 

    Why are we talking about space other than the fact that the focus on SpaceX is giving us a short, but much-needed break from the ever-consuming coverage of the coronavirus pandemic?

    As followers of ARPN will know, aeronautics is a field in which we owe many breakthroughs in recent history to metals, minerals, and the materials science revolution.

    Scandium is a case in point.  Dubbed the “super metal that the aerospace and electric vehicle industries dream of” because of its alloying capabilities that promote lightweight, strength and corrosion resistance, it has become an indispensable tech metal, particularly in the context of the ongoing lightweighting revolution. 

    Aluminum-Scandium alloys have helped reduce aircraft weights by 15% to 20%, without compromising the strength of the building material.   3D-printed Scandium and Aluminum-based high-performance alloys may become even more relevant as the U.S. government embarks on a path to create a U.S. Space Force, and a successful launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon may further increase demand for hi-tech metals like Scandium.

    While all systems may be go for Scandium demand to take off, the supply side has been challenging. 

    As we  outlined a few years ago:

    “[W]hile on paper, Scandium resources may in fact be abundant, it is rarely concentrated in nature, making commercially viable deposits extremely rare. Because it is at present largely recovered as a co-product during the processing of various Gateway Metals, including Tin and Nickel, total global production rates are quite low.  Scandium may also be present in certain Copper and Rare Earth deposits.”

    To date, the U.S. has been 100% import-dependent to meet our domestic Scandium needs and has had to rely on China and Russia — arguably not our most reliable trading partners — to meet demand. In recent years, with demand forecasts for Scandium on the upswing,  mining companies have begun exploring the possibility of primary Scandium recovery and researchers — on behalf of developers of multi-metallic deposits began studying the inclusion of scandium recovery into their project plans.

    And while the launch of SpaceX has to be postponed, news of a breakthrough with potential to change the Scandium supply picture arrived today.  

    As Reuters reports, researchers at Rio Tinto have developed process to extract scandium from waste tailings in the titanium dioxide production process in one of its production facilities in Quebec, Canada.

    The company had previously joined forces with the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a U.S. Department of Energy research hub, to study new ways to capture Gateway Metals and Co-products that are increasingly becoming indispensable in clean power manufacturing — an endeavor we highlighted in the context of our “Profiles of Progress” series highlighting public-private partnerships proving to be valuable tools in the effort to alleviate supply risks for critical raw materials. 

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  • ARPN’s McGroarty for The Hill: Strength through Peace – Dropping Sec. 232 Tariffs on Aluminum and Steel Could Strengthen U.S. Position vis-a-vis China

    In a new piece for The Hill, ARPN’s Dan McGroarty zeroes in on the inter-relationship of trade and resource policy, which has been an increasingly recurring theme over the past few months.

    McGroarty argues that the removal of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum coming from Mexico and Canada, which have been a “dead weight on the ratification of the USMCA trade deal meant to replace NAFTA,” could “strengthen the president’s hand in the China trade talks” and ultimately “super-charge a North American resource renaissance.” 

    He writes:

    “A new deal that lifted the tariffs would (…) clear the way for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to work together to encourage the development of critical minerals — that rapidly-changing group of metals and minerals essential to advanced technology, including everything from laptops and LEDs, wind and solar power, EV batteries and energy storage, to smart phones and smart bombs.

    With the U.S. dependent on China as its primary supplier of 22 of the 35 critical minerals the Trump administration has deemed ‘essential to the national economy and national security,’ new sources of North American supply could (…) deprive China of the leverage it has to limit or even cut off U.S. critical mineral supplies.”

    A joint focus on critical minerals fueled by the U.S.’s and Canada’s mineral riches and  Mexico’s long history of mining copper and gold that brings with it great potential of co-product  access could “could energize new methods of mining, refining, reclamation and recycling that could bring new supply online to meet surging metals demand.”

    Ultimately, lifting the above-referenced tariffs could have benefits that stretch beyond the three countries.

    Concludes McGroarty:

    “So, while the headlines are dominated by U.S.-China trade war, watch for news on the North American trade front. If the president acts now to lift U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, opening the path to the passage of the USMCA — linking three nations with a combined GDP of $25 trillion –— trade friction will give way to a new era of trade expansion and economic growth. Trade peace in North America may be just the signal the president wants to send as trade war looms with China.”

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  • Aluminum and the Intersection of Trade and Resource Policy: U.S. Senator Discusses Need to Remove Sec. 232 Tariffs

    In an interview with Fox and Friends, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa) discusses the path to what he terms a major trade victory for the U.S.  In order for this to happen, he believes removing the Sec. 232 tariffs from the USMCA, the new and yet-to-be-ratified U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal to replace NAFTA struck in [...]
  • Sustainable Sourcing to Support Green Energy Shift – A Look at Copper

    Followers of ARPN will know that Copper is more than just an old school mainstay industrial metal.   We’ve long touted its versatility, stemming from its traditional uses, new applications and Gateway Metal status. Courtesy of the ongoing materials science revolution, scientists are constantly discovering new uses – with the latest case in point being [...]
  • 2019 New Year’s Resolutions for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    Out with the old, in with the new, they say. It‘s new year‘s resolutions time.  With the end of 2017 having set the stage for potentially meaningful reform in mineral resource policy, we outlined a set of suggested resolutions for stakeholders for 2018 in January of last year.  And while several important steps  were taken [...]
  • Gold Leapfrogged by “Obscure and Far Less Sexy” Metal – A Look at Palladium

    Valuable and precious, Gold, for example in jewelry, is a popular go-to for gifts during the holidays.  Who knew that gold’s luster would be dimmed by a metal that “scrubs your exhaust,” as the New York Times phrased it?  It may still not end up under many Christmas trees, but Palladium, an “obscure and far less sexy [...]
  • Passing the Torch – Change in Leadership at Critical Materials Institute (CMI)

    There’s a lot going on in the realm of critical minerals these days – and that does not only apply to policy, but also personnel changes. After five years of building and leading the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, its Director Dr. Alex King [...]
  • The Daily Caller: DOI Critical Minerals List Highlights United States’ Over-Reliance on Foreign Mineral Resources

    Heavily quoting from ARPN’s statement on the issue, The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch earlier this month reported on the Department of the Interior’s finalized list of minerals deemed critical for U.S. national security. Writes Bastasch: “President Donald Trump’s administration’s release of a list of 35 critical minerals highlights just how reliant the U.S. is on [...]
  • Stakeholders and Experts Weigh in on DOI’s Finalized Critical Minerals List 

    Last week, the Department of the Interior released its finalized Critical Mineral list. In spite of calls to include various additional metals and minerals (see ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty’s public comments on the issue here) DOI decided to stick with its pool of 35 minerals deemed critical from a national security perspective. “With the list [...]
  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty Comments on DOI’s Release of Final Critical Minerals List

    The Department of the Interior released its final list of Critical Minerals today. The following is ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty’s statement on the list: “DOI issued its final list of Critical Minerals, unchanged at 35.  What we see is the degree of US dependency – the US is 100% import-dependent for 14 of the 35 [...]

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