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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The Arctic – A Looming Battlefield for Resource Supremacy?

    While relations between Russia and the United States continue to make headlines on a daily basis, one particular aspect of this relationship – in spite of the fact that it may be one of the most contentious ones – has been largely flying under the radar.

    As Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin recently wrote:

    “The next battle for supremacy between the U.S. and Russia is shaping up to be a lot chillier than the last Cold War with the Soviet superpower.”

    Griffin’s temperature reference invokes the geographic location of the site of contention rather than the intensity of the looming “battle” – the Arctic.  And while said “battle” will likely not escalate into actual warfare, stakeholders would be well advised to pay closer attention to what is happening to our North, as it is currently the site of “the focus of a resource grab by Russia and China.”

    Just last month, the Russian defense ministry invited visitors to its website to take a “visual tour” of its new military base in Franz Josef Land, a huge remote archipelago in the Arctic which President Vladimir Putin visited in March of this year.  The base is the second Arctic one built in the Putin era, with the Russian military planning the installation of four additional military bases in region in the coming years.

    While Russia has been flexing its military muscle in the resource-rich Arctic, which it sees as a key strategic location - all while touting peaceful cooperation on the diplomacy front – China, notwithstanding its cartographical lack of an Arctic footprint, has also made a foray into the region over the past few years.

    According to the country’s State Oceanic Administration, China, which considers itself a “near-Arctic state,” views the region as holding “the inherited wealth of all humankind.”  Consequently, China has not only sought, and in 2013 secured, permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, but has also stepped up investment and diplomacy in the region, with Chinese President Xi Jinping incorporating two Arctic stopovers – one in Finland and one in Alaska – into his trip to the United States to meet with President Trump this spring.

    These moves, coupled with the normalization of previously icy relations between China and Norway, and a free trade agreement between Iceland and China, have led professors at Tsinghua University to conclude that “Bejing’s [new Silk Road] strategy does not stop at belt and road”, and rather includes “One belt, one road, and one circle,” with the circle referring to the Arctic circle.

    Meanwhile, the United States is “woefully behind” in the Arctic race, as former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp, who served as the State Department’s special representative to the Arctic, recently told Fox News, adding that:

    “We’ve got our minds on a lot of other things around the world, and we’re not focused on the Arctic. (…) Russia, on the other hand, is very connected. It’s part of their culture. They appreciate the riches, the oil and gas reserves that they have along that very long coastline, and they are looking to exploit it for their own prosperity.”

    China is obviously looking to do the same.

    As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty previously pointed out, the United States’ claim to the Arctic comes via Alaska, and what he said a few years ago, is perhaps even more pertinent today:

    “For the U.S., our Arctic claims come via Alaska – a.k.a. Seward’s Folly, and perhaps the best $7.2 million ever spent by the U.S. Government. Across a range of metals and minerals, expect Alaska – and by extension, our Arctic claims – to play a key role in resource supply in the 21st century. Forget the folly: let’s make that William Seward, futurist.”

    In this context, one can only hope that the recent settlement between the EPA and the Pebble Partnership over the Pebble Deposit in Alaska – albeit years overdue – will be part of a growing realization that it is time to assertively stake the United States’ claim in the Arctic and near-Arctic environs.  The other players have made it clear that they will not wait for us.

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  • North Korean Brinkmanship Highlights Nexus Between Resource Policy and Geopolitics

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the important but oft-overlooked nexus between resource policy and geopolitics.   The latest case in point is South Korea, which, as ARPN President Daniel McGroarty points out in his latest opinion piece for Fox News, is navigating murky waters “talking sunshine and Rare Earths as North Korean war clouds gather.”

    For decades, South Korea has acquired strategic mineral resources it requires for its domestic high-tech industries from its sworn enemy North Korea via the South Korean state owned resource corporation KORES, which also happens to be 50% owner of North Korea’s largest graphite mine.

    Rumored nuclear warhead testing on behalf of the Pyongyang regime has triggered an “unusual degree of collaboration” between U.S. and Chinese leaders to discuss Kim Jong Un’s brinkmanship.  And while South Korea did shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the wake of its Northern neighbors’ 2016 nuclear tests, now, with South Korea’s presidential election to be held on May 9, leaders are not only mulling the prospect of re-opening said complex, but to even expand it.

    The question is “why South Korea sees North Korea – its sworn enemy – as a source for those materials, in the face of strong evidence that the revenue generated from those purchases is funneled into financing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.” 

    Says McGroarty:

    “South Korea can’t have it both ways. It can’t claim be under an existential threat from Kim Jong Un, only to reopen a hard currency spigot that will keep Kim and his cronies in power, and fund a nuclear weapons capability that will – by 2020, some national security experts say —  threaten the continental United States itself.”  

    McGroarty argues that South Korea would be well-advised to begin working with American suppliers to develop new non-North Korean sources of critical metals and minerals. After all, he says:

    “With U.S. naval strike groups sent North Korea’s way and calls for the expedited deployment of THAAD missile defense systems ringing out, one thing is certain:  It’s going to be very hard to convince the American people to go to the brink with a nuclear-armed madman on behalf of an ally who has helped bankroll the nuclear weapons arrayed against it.”     

    Resource policy does not occur in a vacuum — and that’s a message that should not just resonate with South Korea’s political leaders, but U.S. policy makers as well.

    Read the full opinion piece on Fox News here.

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  • Japan continues to diversify its REE suppliers with imports from Kazakhstan

    Against the backdrop of mounting tensions in the territorial dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Japan has recently been stepping up its efforts to diversify the sources of its mineral resource supply. Japan-based Sumitomo Corporation will import Rare Earths from Kazakhstan, according to the website Finance GreenWatch. With the backing of the [...]
  • European Union seeks close cooperation with Greenland to fulfill resource needs

    In an effort to secure access to critical metals and minerals for its industries, European Commission representatives Antonio Tajani (Vice President), and Andris Piebalgs (Commisisoner for Development Cooperation) have signed a letter of intent on cooperation with Greenland’s Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist. The June 13 letter of intent covers cooperation in the areas of joint [...]
  • The Geography and Geopolitics of Copper Mining

    As we’re kicking off week two of “Copper Month” at American Resources, here’s a look at the geography at global copper mining, and the geopolitical challenges that arise from it.  According to the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, most of the world’s copper is mined in Chile, Peru, and China. The U.S. ranks fourth, but domestic [...]
  • Aware the days of its near-monopoly are numbered, China leverages REE stranglehold to lure foreign business

    The New York Times’ Keith Bradshear has taken a closer look at foreign manufacturers moving their production sites into China in an effort to mitigate reduced access to and increased cost for REEs – a development we covered on our blog here and here. The article underscores that rather than acting out of environmental concerns, [...]
  • China discovers world’s second largest molybdenum deposit

    Chinadaily.com.cn reports that China has discovered its largest molybdenum deposit to-date in the East-Chinese province of Anhui.   At 2.2 million tons, the discovered deposits have a mining life of more than one hundred years and constitute the second largest known quantity of minable molybdenum with the world’s largest mine being the Climax Mine in Colorado. [...]
  • What makes it whirl? The commonalities of vacuums and geopolitics

    As you vacuum your house, you’re probably not thinking too much about the United States’ over-reliance on foreign mineral resources.  Here’s why maybe you should: Ever wonder what makes your Dyson DC 31 handheld vacuum cleaner whirl? You may be surprised to hear that the answer is rare earths. Five times faster than a racing [...]
  • Mozambique find underscores geopolitics of global race for resources

    According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Globe Metals and Mining has discovered significant rare earths deposits at its exploration site Mount Muambe in Mozambique. This positive exploration result will likely further strengthen China’s quasi-monopoly position when it comes to rare earths, as the Chinese state-owned East China Minerals Exploration and Development Bureau only two months [...]

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