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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
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  • The “Indispensable Twins” of Critical Minerals – Niobium and Tantalum

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on what USGS has dubbed the “indispensable twins” – Niobium and Tantalum. Both share “nearly indistinguishable physical and chemical properties” and are “critical to the defense, energy and high-tech sectors.”  Meanwhile, neither Niobium nor Tantalum are mined in the United States, so their inclusion on the recently-released Department of the Interior list of 35 minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security and the economy should come as no surprise.

    Standouts among Niobium’s properties are its “toughness, resistance to corrosion and high melting point [which] makes it an important alloy to steel that will be used in situations where durability is vital.” Its extreme heat resistance when alloyed with steel makes it a key ingredient for superalloys in jet engines, rockets, gas turbines, and turbochargers.

    Tantalum shares many of Niobium’s characteristics, but, as Lasley writes, it’s “its exceptional capacity to store and release energy” that sets this twin apart, and has resulted in the fact that “50 percent of the tantalum consumed in the United States was used in capacitors and high-power resistors for the electronics sector.”

    Lasley lists several more of the twins’ properties, but for our purposes, suffice it to say they’re indeed quite “indispensable.”

    In spite of the fact that the United States is home to both Niobium and Tantalum deposits, neither of them has been produced domestically since the 1950s.  As a result, the U.S. 100% is import dependent for both, with Brazil (pegged at 72 percent for Niobium, 40 percent for Tantalum minerals) and China (pegged at 23 percent for Tantalum metals) listed as lead suppliers by USGS — leaving domestic industries vulnerable to supply disruptions.

    Thankfully, there is domestic resource potential that – if properly harnessed, could alleviate these vulnerabilities. Lasley points to several deposits in Alaska that show great potential for domestic development of both Niobium and Tantalum, as well as a number of other metals and minerals deemed critical from an economic and national security perspective.

    Whether or not these specific deposits are economically viable remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that we need a framework conducive to unleashing this kind of domestic resource potential.

    As Mark J. Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus recently wrote for the Washington Examiner:

    “More than ever before, our political and business leaders need to make it clear that foreign dependence is neither the right nor the necessary way, and exposes the U.S. economy to great and unnecessary risks. An ideal minerals policy would limit regulatory intrusion, promote economic growth, and enable U.S. companies to compete in international markets. Environmentalists will likely resist any regulatory rollbacks. But so profound is the case for strengthening U.S. mining of minerals and metals that our highest priority should be the security and economic dividends from a pro-competitiveness agenda.”

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  • A View From Across the Pond: European Resource Policy Through the Prism of a Low-Carbon Vision

    The recently-released Defense Industrial Base study, which once more has underscored the need for a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. resource policy, directed its focus on U.S. competitiveness primarily vis-à-vis China.

    Already vast and resource-rich, the country has demonstrated an insatiable appetite for the world’s mineral resources and has pursued an aggressive strategy to gain access to the materials needed to meet the world’s largest population’s resource needs.

    As the U.S. inches forward to formulate a long-overdue critical mineral resource strategy, our European trading partners across the Atlantic not sitting idly by.

    Acutely aware of European resource dependencies, policy makers look at the European Union’s resource policy through the prism of the EU’s 2050 low-carbon vision – with a clear emphasis on two themes: the circular economy and battery technology.

    To kick off the work week, here’s a video clip featuring Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission for energy policy, outlining these tenets of EU resource policy:

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  • Sweden Tosses Hat Into Ring In Race For Materials Underpinning EV Revolution

    As the race for the metals and minerals driving the electric vehicle revolution heats up, and China continues to jockey for pole position, Sweden is tossing its hat into the ring.  According to recent media reports, the Swedish government has earmarked 10 million kronor ( roughly one million Euros) to explore the option of digging [...]
  • Mamula & Moore on Mineral Resource Policy: Time for a Change in Strategy and Philosophy

    “Why is the United States reliant on China and Russia for strategic minerals when we have more of these valuable resources than both these nations combined?” Stephen Moore, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works, and ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, a geoscientist and adjunct scholar at the [...]
  • Perspective: Life Takes 30 Minerals, Your iPhone Requires 75

    It may not be brand new, but this video serves as a good reminder of  why the long overdue mineral resource policy reform debate now underway is so critical. Last Friday, pursuant to December’s Executive Order 13817, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released his draft list of “35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S National [...]
  • Lithium – A Material “Coming of Age” is Case in Point for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    As we have outlined, last month’s executive order on critical minerals could have far-reaching implications for our national security and economic wellbeing.  If you needed a case in point – look no further than Lithium. One of the hottest commodities of the day, Lithium, as ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral [...]
  • An Early Christmas Present? New Executive Order Calls for National Strategy to Increase Domestic Resource Development

    Only one day after USGS released its new report “Critical Minerals of the United States” – a study which underscores the United States’ over-reliance on foreign minerals – a new executive order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to publish within 60 days a list of critical minerals to be followed by a report (after another [...]
  • Clear Your Holiday Reading List – USGS Releases “Critical Materials of the United States”

    Too much family? Too much rockin’ around the Christmas tree? If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and sit down with a good book, look no further – USGS has you covered. The agency has just released a new study entitled “Critical Minerals of the United States“ which [...]
  • Nickel – The “Metal That Brought You Cheap Flights” Now “Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution”

    Another week, another great infographic by Visual Capitalist – this time on the “Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution” – Nickel. Long an important base metal because of its alloying capabilities, Nickel’s status as a Gateway Metal, yielding access to tech minerals like Cobalt, Palladium, Rhodium and Scandium – all of which are increasingly becoming [...]
  • European Commission Expands Critical Raw Materials List (U.S. Government, Are You Listening?)

    Earlier last month, the European Commission released an updated list of critical raw materials in the context of the European Union’s “Raw Materials Initiative” – a project put forward in 2008 to tackle challenges associated with raw material access.  The 2017 list is an update and expansion of the Commission’s 2014 list, identifying 27 raw [...]
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