American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • As Japan Retreats, US Dozes Off Again On Critical Minerals

    Over the course of the last few months, slumping prices have prompted Japanese companies to reassess their rare metals strategies and cancel cooperative agreements that were once considered a high priority.

    As Nikkei Asian Review reports, state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC) has cancelled a joint exploration contract for a tungsten mine in Australia, and chemical Showa Denko has announced plans to dissolve its China-based rare-earth magnet alloy-manufacturing and –selling subsidiary Baotou Show Rare Earth High-Tech New Material.

    The Japanese retreat is providing China, which is also putting out feelers regarding acquiring bankrupt American REE producer Molycorp after Japanese companies declined, with yet another opening to tighten its grip on the rare metals market.

    Says Rurika Imahashi, Nikkei staff writer:

    “Slowly but surely the market is being forged into an oligopoly. More than 100 rare-earth producers in China will be consolidated by June, leaving 90% of global supply in the hands of a mere six companies. Similar moves are also afoot in the antimony and other rare metals markets.”

    Imahashi’s observation regarding the consequences is spot on:

    “Concerns over supply may be waning due to falling prices, but stable supply could be at risk in the medium and long term.”

    Meanwhile, the United States appears to be dozing off again on the critical minerals front. While the USGS recently released a study showing that the U.S. reliance on foreign imports has increased significantly over the past 30 years, Congress has failed to pass legislation to facilitate exploration and development of domestic mineral resources for several years in a row.  Instead, like Buzz Lightyear — and in a sad commentary on the burdensome permitting process on the patch of Earth called the United States —  American lawmakers decided to look To Infinity and Beyond!, passing legislation allowing for the commercial extraction of minerals and other materials, including water from the moon and asteroids.

  • Japan Pursuing Long-Term Critical Mineral Strategy in Kazakhstan

    In an effort to secure ongoing access to Rare Earths (REEs) for its domestic industries, Japan, which in geological terms does not have much of a resource profile, has entered into a series of cooperative agreements with Kazakhstan, a nation quickly ascending into the league of top REE suppliers in the world.

    The latest one of these deals, struck by the Nipponese Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation’s (JOGMEC) in late October with local Kazakh authorities to jointly explore for rare earths in the Karaganda and Kostanay regions, solidifies Japan’s foothold in the resource-rich Central Asian nation.

    Policy makers in the U.S. – which is no stranger to import dependencies for critical mineral resources – should take note.  Commodity prices may have cooled in recent years, and manufacturers are increasingly looking to substitution and recycling, but these are no silver bullets to alleviate supply shortages, particularly as demand for tech minerals will likely continue to soar.

    Meanwhile, the global resource wars are continuing to heat up before our very own eyes.   Japan may have learned its lesson the hard way, when China cut off its REE exports to Japan in 2010. It is now approaching its mineral supply issues strategically, with a long-term vision in mind, and is not only looking to Kazakhstan, but has also signed a partnership agreement with India to explore stakes in deep-sea mining.

    Whether or not we may one day see OPEC-style coordination between China, Russia and Kazakhstan on global REE supply, as some fear, the United States, would be well-advised to join Japan in formulating a long-term critical mineral resource strategy – the stakes are too high, and the nature of mining and challenges associated with it are just not conducive to improvising policies on the fly.

  • Does Elon Musk Know Where His Giga-Metals Will Come From?

    ARPN followers are well-versed on the dangers of foreign resource dependency – a concern highlighted by Tesla Motors’ announcement earlier this year that the EV manufacturer will build a massive Giga-Factory in the American Southwest, with the goal of doubling global EV battery output by 2020. As ARPN’ers know, the next question is: Where will [...]
  • New year, new players in the REE game?

    In an ongoing reaction to China’s restrictive mineral policies, countries are expanding their efforts to look for alternative supplies of sought-after commodities. Case in point is Japan, which in recent months has inked cooperative agreements with a number of other nations including India and Vietnam. Its most recent effort is focused on what is better [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Interview: Putting the Chinese-Japanese island dispute into perspective

    In a three-part interview series with Metal Miner, American Resources principal Daniel McGroarty discusses resource nationalism, the role of China in global resource wars and lessons for the United States’ mineral resource strategy against the backdrop of the East China Sea territorial dispute between China and Japan over a tiny group of islands, with outsized [...]
  • ARPN Expert View: “East China Sea one front in larger resource wars”

    Two years after China’s Rare Earths embargo on Japan and subsequent supply shortages put the until-then largely obscure group of critical minerals on the map, tensions between the two countries are reaching new heights, with the specter of war looming. At the heart of the current tensions lies a territorial “tug-of-war” over five tiny – [...]
  • Chinese-Japanese tensions to rise again over Rare Earths

    China’s suspension of Rare Earth shipments to Japan in the fall of 2010 kicked off a firestorm and has largely contributed to the extensive media coverage Rare Earth supply issues have received in recent months. While shipments were since resumed, reports that Japan is diversifying its supply sources have surfaced from time to time. But [...]
  • Foreign Manufacturers Still Flock to China

    Japanese electronics maker Panasonic has built a new consumer Lithium-ion factory in Suzhou, China. While the plant is located on the premises already owned by Panasonic, the new facility is a manifestation of an ongoing trend of foreign manufacturers moving their production sites into China in order to mitigate reduced access to and increased costs [...]
  • Japan, Kazakhstan to ‘jointly develop rare earths’

    Back in March, the U.S., Europe and Japan issued a WTO complaint against China’s mineral export policies. The complaint raised awareness of global resource needs, but accomplished little else. Rather than waiting for further action, as the U.S. seems content to do, Japan has taken matters into its own hands. The Japanese have partnered with [...]