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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
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  • A Mineral Resource Policy for 2020 – New Year’s Resolutions for Resource Policy Stakeholders

    We realize that New Year’s resolutions are somewhat controversial.  Some say, they‘re not worth the paper they’re written on – but we feel that whether or not we implement all of them, they offer a good opportunity to both step back to reflect and set goals as we look at the big picture ahead. And that certainly can’t hurt. 

    With several positive stage-setting steps taken in 2018, 2019 continued to bring a number of positive developments in the realm of mineral resource policy.  

    However, while we appear to be headed in the right direction — towards an all-of-the-above approach in mineral resource policy as outlined in our 2019 recap — most of the resolutions we spelled out last January remain stubbornly 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:

    Continue the National Policy Conversation 

    Against the backdrop of the specter of China playing the “rare earths card” setting off alarm bells and the intensifying the battery arms race, the Commerce Department released the long-awaited interagency Commerce Department report pursuant to Executive Order 13817, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals released in June 2019 at a critical juncture.

    There are indications that it may have served as a catalyst for policy makers across the political aisle to understand the urgency of securing mineral resource supply chains, and the need at long last for a more comprehensive approach to mineral resource policy. In an increasingly toxic political climate in Washington, D.C., it is important that policy makers work to ensure that partisanship does not impede the advancement of policy solutions because, as ARPN‘s Dan McGroarty noted during a recent panel discussion:

    “We can’t admire the problem anymore. We don’t have the luxury of time.

    This past summer, just as it did in 2010, the Rare Earths issue has once again re-introduced non-fuel mineral resource issues into the mainstream political discourse.  This growing awareness of our nation‘s mineral resource woes should be harnessed — and stakeholders should work to change the sentiment that “neither [political] parties’ base sees critical minerals as such a dire threat.”

    Read!

    The above referenced Commerce report – coupled with studies released in 2018 (DoI‘s Critical Minerals List and DoD‘s Defense Industrial Base Review) – represents must-read material 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 2020.   USGS‘s 2017 “Critical Minerals of the United States” should also be required reading.  

    We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: “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.”

    Don‘t Forget the Gateway/Co-Product Interrelationship

    2019 was a fast-paced year on the mineral resource front.   And with China‘s Rare Earths saber-rattling and the intensifying battery arms race revolving primarily around cobalt, lithium, graphite and nickel, it might be easier to focus attention on just a handful metals and minerals.   

    However, we must continue to look at the bigger picture. Courtesy of the materials science revolution, Gateway metals – which include mainstay metals like Copper, Aluminum, Nickel, Tin and Zinc  – and their Co-Products are increasingly becoming the building blocks of 21st Century technology. Their interrelationship should be factored into any mineral resource policy discussion.

    (Read our 2018 “Through the Gateway” report here.)

    Enact Legislation

    Some legislative progress was made in 2019 (see our recap), however Congress failed once more to pass key critical minerals provisions.  Congress should make an effort to finally pass these common sense provisions in 2020.

    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.” 

    Again, it’s all about harnessing momentum.  As E&E’s Dylan Brown wrote discussing a recent U.S. House hearing on critical mineral issues: “They are split on solutions, but many Republicans and Democrats share national security concerns about growing reliance on foreign countries, in particular China, for a slew of minerals used in military and renewable energy technology.”

    Factor Resource Policy Into Trade Policy – and Vice Versa

    2018 brought the inter-relationship between trade and resource policy to the forefront with  U.S.-imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico weighing on the negotiations surrounding the USMCA trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico.  The tariffs were ultimately removed in 2019, but the agreement signed in December between Canada, Mexico and the United States may open the door to increased metal imports from China via Mexico as its amended rules of origin for automobiles include tighter definitions of what constitutes North American steel — but not of what constitutes North American aluminum.

    In 2019, the inter-relationship between trade and resource policy became even clearer in the context of the U.S.-Chinese trade war.  The specter of China rare earths as an economic weapon has revealed that the current trade war between the U.S. and China is in fact one front in a larger tech war – a competition to see which country will dominate the 21st Century Technology Age, in which our “Achilles’ heel” is our over-reliance on foreign metals and minerals underpinning 21st Century technology and China’s dominance across the supply chains for many of them.

    Against this backdrop, the U.S. has stepped up its cooperative efforts with close allies and reliable trading partners — a trend stakeholders should build on in the coming months.  The bottom line is that policy-making cannot occur in a vacuum.  Trade issues should inform mineral resource policy and vice versa. 

    Once more, our 2020 resolutions come down to:  

    Discuss, Read – and Act.  

    And while there is some debate on whether 2020 represents the beginning of the new decade or not we have every hope that we‘ll continue on the positive trajectory towards a comprehensive mineral resource policy — one that, when we look back on 2020, will mark this year as beginning of our journey to American resource independence. 

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  • U.S. to Cooperate with Canada and Australia To Encourage Responsible Resource Development for New Energy Technology

    Amidst growing concerns over the availability of metals and minerals underpinning the EV revolution, the United States, Canada and Australia have joined forces to encourage the responsible development of said materials.

    As the Financial Times reported earlier last week, the US state department and its Canadian and Australian counterparts “will work to help countries discover and understand their mineral resources. They will advise on management and governance  frameworks that will attract international investment and support good environmental and social policies.”

    China – itself no stranger to playing politics with its position of strength in the resource realm – has long been jockeying for pole position in this area, for good reason. As Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts stated earlier with respect to EV battery technology: “whoever controls these supply chains controls industrial power in the 21st century.”

    The move for greater international cooperation comes as the threat of China playing the REE card looms larger than ever, as we discussed earlier last week.

    While potentially at the brink of seeing REE supply disruptions for military equipment firms, the United States appears to have awaken to the realities of 21st Century resource policies. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce released its Critical Minerals Strategy calling for “unprecedented action to ensure that the United States will not be cut off from these vital materials.”

    The cooperative push by the U.S. State Department may be separate from that effort, but ties into the overall realization that the materials science revolution requires are more comprehensive, strategic and concerted approach to resource policy than that pursued by the United States to date. 

    Meanwhile, Europe is also stepping up its mineral resource game, particularly in the EV realm.

    Against this backdrop, U.S. action becomes all the more urgent.  It is not too late yet. Says Moores:

    “There is no doubt that if the US acts now and invests wisely in partnerships, it can catch up, (…) [b]ut it really needs to act now.”

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  • Global Times: REE Supply Restrictions Likely for U.S. Military Equipment Firms

    The specter of China playing the “rare earths card” is looming larger this week.   According to the Global Times’s twitter feed, U.S. military equipment firms will likely face restrictions of Chinese Rare Earth supplies in the near future, as China’s economic planners will “study and roll out policies on rare earths as soon as possible.”     [...]
  • CBS’s 60 Minutes Airs Updated Rare Earths Segment Featuring ARPN’s McGroarty

    Bearing testimony to the significance of the looming specter of China playing the “rare earths card,” CBS’s 60 Minutes this weekend aired an update to its 2015 segment on rare earths featuring ARPN principal Dan McGroarty.  You can watch the segment on the CBS website, which also features a written transcript. There is hope that the [...]
  • Commerce Department Releases Long-Awaited Interagency Report on Critical Minerals

    On Tuesday, June 4, the U.S. Department of Commerce released the “interagency report that was submitted to the President pursuant to Executive Order 13817, A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.”  The report, which, according to the agency’s official announcement, “contains a government-wide action plan, including recommendations to advance research and development [...]
  • Trade Tensions Underscore Need for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    While 2018 brought the inter-relationship between trade and resource policy to the forefront, this trend is continuing in 2019.   Last week, the White House announced sanctions on Iranian metals, which represent the Tehran regime’s biggest source of export revenue aside from petroleum.  The sanctions on Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum and copper sectors represent the [...]
  • U.S. To Pursue National Electric Vehicle Supply Chain

    ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Simon Moores must have struck a nerve when he called the U.S. a “bystander” in the current battery arms race during a recent Congressional hearing. His message  —  “Those who control these critical raw materials and those who possess the manufacturing and processing know how, will [...]
  • Release of USGS’s 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries Once More Underscores Need for Resource Policy Reform

    The partial shutdown of the federal government at the beginning of this year had delayed its release, but last week, USGS published its 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries. Followers of ARPN will know that we await the publication’s release with somewhat bated breath every year, as especially “Page 6” – the chart depicting U.S. Net Import [...]
  • Critical Minerals Alaska – A Look at Germanium

    In the twelfth and final installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley takes a look at Germanium – a lesser known yet vital ingredient in fiber optic cables and high-efficiency solar cells.  Followers of ARPN may remember Germanium as one of the key co-products for the gateway [...]
  • 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 [...]

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