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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 in 2018, as we outlined in our end-of-year recap, most of the resolutions we spelled out remain valid 365 days later, though not without some tweaks or additions.

    Without further ado, here‘s our updated list of suggested new year‘s resolutions for resource policy stakeholders:

    Have a National Policy Conversation 

    The release of the DoI‘s Critical Minerals List and DoD‘s Defense Industrial Base Review in 2018 have helped publicly underscore the need for comprehensive reform. We also saw an uptick in resource resource policy related news making headlines in national publications. It’s a good starting point, because “while agency and department heads are in charge of rolling out a critical minerals strategy, what is needed in the coming months is a broad national conversation about our nation’s mineral needs and our over-reliance on foreign sources of supply, involving a broad variety of stakeholders from both the private and public sectors.”

    Read!

    The above referenced reports, along with the USGS’s “Critical Minerals of the United States” report released in late 2017 represent must-read materials for all stakeholders involved to develop an understanding of U.S. mineral resource needs and associated supply challenges and should form the basis for any meaningful policy discussions in 2019. As we said before: “ARPN knows how the Congress works; let’s hope Members delegate a key staffer or several to divvy up the USGS tome and really get familiar with it.

    Zero in on the Gateway/Co-Product Interrelationship

    We were happy to see that in 2018, perhaps in part thanks to our informational campaign to highlight the importance of “Co-Product Metals and Minerals,” which included the release of a new report,  awareness of the important inter-relationship of “Gateway Metals” and their “Co-Products,” is growing, and is becoming a part of the broader mineral resource policy conversation. (See for example Ned Mamula’s and Ann Bridges’s just-released book “Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence.) Harnessing the interrelationship between Gateway Metals – which include mainstay metals like Copper, Aluminum, Nickel, Tin and Zinc  – and their Co-Products, many of which are increasingly becoming the building blocks of 21st Century technology, should be a focal point of any critical mineral resource strategy.  

    Enact Legislation

    As we previously noted, “as important as Executive Orders are, they are not legislation, and history has shown that policy that is set and enacted by the stroke of the Presidential pen can just as easily be undone. Ultimately, for any real progress to grab hold and develop staying power, codification of any reforms yielded by these orders through Congressional action is highly desirable.” Some legislative progress was made in 2018 (see our recap), however Congress failed once more to pass key critical minerals provisions which were initially included in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, including the Amodei amendment ARPN followers will be familiar with. Congress should make an effort to finally pass these common sense provisions in 2019.

    Factor Resource Policy Into Trade Policy

    More than previous years, 2018 brought the inter-relationship between trade and resource policy to the forefront.  The U.S. Administration won agreement to replace NAFTA with the USMCA — the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement in November of 2018. The talks had opened a window to drop the so-called Section 232 tariffs — named for a seldom-used section of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act — on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico, which stand in the way of a fully integrated North American defense supply chain and, particularly with regards to Canada, “ignore nearly 80 years of deep defense cooperation with our northern neighbor.” Unfortunately, the provision remained intact in the November agreement, but, as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty recently outlined in a piece for The Hill: “The opportunity is here, to use the momentum generated by the new USMCA agreement as a springboard to take the strategic North American alliance to a new level.” So for 2019, stakeholders should work towards removing Section 232 tariffs, and should ensure that resource policy challenges — especially when national security and defense industrial base issues are involved — are factored into trade policy decisions.

    In the grand scheme of things, once more, our 2019 resolutions come down to:  Discuss, Read – and Act.  Here‘s hoping that we can look back at 2019 as the year a new and comprehensive critical minerals strategy helped make the U.S. stronger and safer.

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  • 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 rival” metal for the first time in sixteen years leapfrogged gold in metal market prices last week, hitting a record high last Wednesday.

    Writes the New York Times:

    “It is an impressive dethroning aided by economic shifts, antipollution legislation, union campaigns by mine workers and global trade negotiations. Until recently, palladium was perhaps best known for sharing a name with several popular entertainment venues and for powering the fictional arc reactor mechanism hooked up to Iron Man’s heart.

    Its primary purpose is far less glamorous: More than 80 percent of the world’s palladium is used in the catalytic converters that help vehicles manage their pollutant output.”

    Usage in passenger cars – in response to regulatory efforts to reduce tailpipe emissions — has been one of the key drivers of Palladium demand, and while analysts expect a record high demand this year, softening car sales and other factors may dampen demand going forward.   However, considering Palladium is largely a “co-product” metal recovered via Platinum mining in South Africa and Nickel mining in Russia, it is considered extremely rare, which has tightened supply and driven up prices.

    U.S. import dependence for the metal is pegged at 45 percent, with our lead suppliers being South Africa, accounting for 30% and Russia accounting for  25% in 2017. According to USGS, the sole domestic PGM-mining company — at one point owned by Russian investors — was sold to a South Africa-based mining company in May 2017. 

    Not surprisingly in light of current market developments, Russia – arguably not one of the U.S.’s best trading partners – is looking to step up Palladium production in the coming months.

    Thankfully, as part of the Platinum Group Metals, which was included in DOI’s Critical Minerals list earlier this year, Palladium is on the United States’ government radar.  However, we have yet to see comprehensive action to follow the release of the critical minerals list.  With our competitors – led by China and Russia – not sitting idly by in the global resource race, we cannot afford to get complacent, and must implement policies conducive to harnessing our own domestic resource potential.  As we previously argued:

    The case of Palladium should be another catalyst (pun intended) for policy makers to formulate policies conducive to domestic mineral resource development.

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  • 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 [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: CMI Expands Collaborative Research Focus to Include Lithium and Cobalt

    The Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, is expanding its research on tech metals “as rapid growth in electric vehicles drives demand for lithium, cobalt.” According to a recent Ames Lab press release, the Institute will focus on maximizing the efficiency of processing, usage and [...]
  • McGroarty in The Hill: Copper Should Be Factored Into NAFTA “Auto Rules of Origin” Negotiations

    In a new piece for The Hill, American Resources Policy Network principal Daniel McGroarty zeroes in on the intersection between trade and resource policy. Against the backdrop of the current negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), McGroarty argues that one of the metals ARPN followers have come to know as a [...]
  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty Submits Public Comments on DoI Critical Minerals List

    Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13817 on a Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals, was issued on December 20, 2017. Pursuant to the EO, the Department of Interior, in coordination with the Department of Defense, was tasked with compiling a list of Critical Minerals within 60 days. The DOI List was [...]
  • Visual Capitalist: Sec. Zinke’s Critical Minerals List Visualized

    Visual Capitalist has put together a great visualization of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s draft list of 35 metals and minerals deemed critical to U.S. National Security. The list was released earlier this month, pursuant to Executive Order 13817 issued on December 20, 2017, “A Federal Strategy To Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of [...]

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