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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 Reliance – gives us a window into where we stand as a nation in terms of mineral resource security.

    We’re not overly surprised, though, to see that there are no major changes compared to last year. The number of metals and minerals for which we are 100% import-dependent may have dropped slightly (from 21 to 18), but a closer look into the footnotes of our favorite chart reveals that for two of the minerals previously included in the 100% import-reliance category, Quartz Chrystal (Industrial) and Thallium USGS states that “not enough information is available to calculate the exact percentage of import dependence” this year. For the third mineral to drop out of the 100% import-reliance category, Yttrium, numbers have dropped to 95% with production in California’s Mountain Pass mine having restarted in the first quarter of 2018. That is a positive development, but hardly a seismic shift in domestic resource development.

    The number of metals and minerals for which we are 50% or more than 50% import-dependent is still at 49, down one from 50 – but with the above-referenced caveat of lacking data for two materials – so it may in fact be higher than last year.

    The fact of the matter is that U.S net import reliance remains too high, and has – with implications for our economy and national security. USGS’s comparing its net import reliance numbers with the Department of the Interior’s Critical Minerals List, released for the first time in 2017, underscores this:

    14 of the 18 mineral commodities with 100% net import reliance were considered “critical” by DOI. 15 of the 30 remaining mineral commodities with imports greater than 50 percent of annual consumption were also reflected on DOI’s list. Aluminum, listed at exactly 50 percent import-reliance on the 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries, also has “critical mineral” status as per DOI.

    Hopefully these findings provide fresh impetus for mineral resource policy reform, for which we saw incremental progress in 2018 – but are still awaiting further steps, including the release of the — by now long-overdue — report by the Department of Commerce subsequent to the 2017 presidential executive order on critical minerals outlining a “broader strategy” and recommending specific policy steps to implement it.

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  • Sustainable Sourcing to Support Green Energy Shift – A Look at Copper

    Followers of ARPN will know that Copper is more than just an old school mainstay industrial metal.   We’ve long touted its versatility, stemming from its traditional uses, new applications and Gateway Metal status. Courtesy of the ongoing materials science revolution, scientists are constantly discovering new uses – with the latest case in point being Copper used in OLED technology to lower the cost to light up TVs and smart phones.

    Perhaps more importantly in light of the current debate over a shift towards renewable energy, Copper is also one of the key building blocks of our green energy future.

    In that, however, as we have previously argued, lies an inherent irony: Proponents of a green energy shift for the United States tend to vehemently oppose the domestic development of the very metals and minerals that make said shift possible.  However, as ARPN expert Ned Mamula recently indicated, that needn’t be the case.

    Advances in technology harnessed by the modern mining industry make it possible to restore a balance between mining and environmental protection – a position recently outlined by Fleming Voetman, VP for Public Affairs at the International Copper Association.

    In a piece for GreenBiz, Voetman outlines how “[i]ndustries are responding by recognizing their responsibility and trying to meet the increased expectations of consumers, society and governments,” and notes several positive trends that are currently underway.   These range from consumer electronics companies like Ericsson and mining companies like Rio Tinto overhauling their supply chain policies to ensure suppliers conform to certain environmental and social standards, to companies like consumer electronics maker Phillips and mining company Teck supporting local communities.

    Concludes Voetman: 

    “As the demand for copper and other materials necessary for the development of a low carbon society increases, the importance of these responsible sourcing actions grows. Responsible sourcing is a way of extending the benefits of this demand in materials to local communities.

    With global copper demand expected to grow alongside the roll out of energy-efficiency measures and uptake of renewable-energy sources, it is clear that we as an industry collectively need to address societal expectations. The World Bank’s 2017 report on the growing role of minerals and metals states, ‘The shift to low carbon energy will produce global opportunities with respect to a number of minerals,’ and that limiting climate change to a global increase of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius will require radical changes to drive this increased demand.”

    Industry understands that reconciling mining and environmental protection is both necessary and feasible. It is time for our policy makers to realize this, too, and devise a policy framework conducive to the responsible harnessing of the metals and minerals beneath our own soil. 

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  • ARPN Expert Panel Member Explains How a Look to the Past Could Help Us Move Forward on Green Energy Transition

    In his latest piece for The Hill, Ned Mamula, member of the ARPN panel of experts and adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, zeroes in on what we have called the “inherent irony” of the Green New Deal – the fact that a green energy transition requires large quantities [...]
  • Green New Deal’s Inherent Irony: Renewable Energy Sources Rely Heavily on Critical Minerals, the Domestic Development of Which Proponents Oppose

    There is much talk about the so-called “Green New Deal,” a concept originally floated by the Green Party and now championed by newly-elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).  Amidst much of the information (and misinformation) that is being spread with regards to the plan that seeks to implement a sweeping transition to green renewable energy, one aspect has [...]
  • REEs Underscore Challenges of Erosion of Defense Industrial Base

    While policies stemming from the dominating free-trade ideology “have succeeded in generating great wealth for the U.S. economy, they have also led to a number of unintended consequences, including the erosion of the manufacturing segment of the defense industrial base,” argues Jeff Green, president of Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm J.A. Green & Company, and member of [...]
  • Washington’s Mining and Resource Policy Agenda – What’s in Store for 2019?

    As we get back into the swing of things, a new piece for E&E News previews the anticipated 2019 mining and mineral resource policy agenda in Washington, DC. Here are some of the highlights: With a shift of power in the House of Representatives, hard rock leasing and reclamation issues are expected to come up [...]
  • New NMA Infographic Visualizes Impact of Overreliance on Foreign Minerals

    The long-awaited Defense Industrial Base report is ringing the alarm on supply chain vulnerabilities for the defense sector. As followers of ARPN will know, some aspects of the issues outlined in the report could be alleviated if the United States had a comprehensive mineral resource strategy and streamlined, updated permitting system for domestic mining projects [...]
  • ARPN Expert: To Counter China’s Mineral Resource Dominance, U.S. Apathy About Critical Minerals Must End  

    Followers of ARPN know that China is the big elephant in the room when it comes to the United States’ critical mineral resource supply issues.  As ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, an adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, and “Rare Mettle” author Ann Bridges write in [...]
  • Soon To-Be-Released Defense Industrial Base Study May “Revolutionize Approach to Supply-Chain Security and  Strategic Materials”

    A good year ago, a presidential Executive Order (E.O. 13806) mandated the completion of a study to assess the “Manufacturing Capacity, Defense Industrial Base, and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States.” According to a well-informed administration source, this defense industrial base study is now nearing completion, reports Breaking Defense. However, as Sydney J. Friedberg [...]
  • “Critical Minerals Alaska:” A Familiar Scenario for Tungsten – Chinese Domination and U.S. Prospects

    Pop quiz: Which metal has “the highest melting point of all the elements on the periodic table, (…) is a vital ingredient to a wide-range of industrial and military applications,” has made the Department of Interior’s final list of 35 metals deemed critical to U.S. national security, “yet none of this durable metal is currently [...]

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