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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Independence Day 2020 – Critical Mineral Resource Policy in a Watershed Year

    It’s that time of the year again – Independence Day is upon us.  This year, things are different, though. If you’re like us, it kind of snuck up on you, and it took seeing the booths selling fireworks in the parking lots to realize it’s July already.  After all, we just came off the longest month of March ever, right?

    While parades and fireworks to honor the men and women who have fought for, and continue to safeguard our freedom today, have been canceled in many places, July 4th still provides us with an opportunity to pause and take stock of where we are as a nation — and this year, there is much to reflect on.

    From a critical mineral resource perspective, we at ARPN have always used the occasion of Independence Day to remind ourselves that “while we cherish the freedom we are blessed with in so many ways, we must not become complacent, as there are areas where we’re increasingly becoming less independent” — with our reliance on foreign mineral resources being a case in point. 

    Today, this statement rings more true than ever, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic having exposed the vast extent of our mineral resource supply chain vulnerabilities. As ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argued in a piece for Real Clear Politics in March, “[t]he rapid spread of the coronavirus is doing more than claim an alarming number of human hosts — it is burning through decades of bureaucratic inertia and plain inattention as the American economic ecosystem has become dangerously dependent on China.”

    As followers of ARPN know — and as our nation as a whole is increasingly realizing —the United States’ reliance on foreign non-fuel minerals has significantly increased over the course of the past 65 years, both in terms of number and type, as well as as a percentage of import reliance.  Along with the rise in import dependency came a drastic shift in provider countries.

    Whereas the number of non-fuel mineral commodities for which the United States was greater than 50% net import-dependent was 28 in 1954, this number increased to 47 in 2014.  And while the U.S. was 100% net import reliant for 8 of the non-fuel commodities analyzed in 1954, this total import reliance increased to 11 non-fuel minerals in 1984, and currently stands at 17.  In the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries report, China continues to be the elephant in the data room, and is listed 25 times as one of the major import sources of metals and minerals for which our net import reliance is 50% or greater.

    This spells trouble, and this realization is going mainstream, as indicated by this week’s Wall Street Journal discussion of a report by consulting firm Horizon Advocacy, which (looking specifically at rare earths) warns that “China’s rare earths positioning both implicates and threatens the entire global system,” and that “China will not rule out using rare earth exports as leverage (…).”

    Thankfully, there are indications that policymakers on Capitol Hill, in Cabinet Departments and in the White House are taking the issue seriously, and, after years of inaction, a flurry of current policy initiatives aimed at alleviating our supply chain vulnerabilities points to the U.S. Government viewing strategic materials and critical minerals issues with a new seriousness.

    Underscoring the urgency of the situation largely from a battery tech minerals perspective, Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and a member of the ARPN panel of experts, told the committee that “(…) the consequences of a long-term cutoff of some of the critical materials that we’ve discussed today would just be disastrous for the U.S. economy. (…) The threat of China…is becoming more and more evident every day even during this pandemic.” 

    How we proceed forward over the next few months of 2020 could become a watershed moment for United States. Will we continue to tinker around the edges of policy reform, or will we finally take significant steps towards U.S. mineral resource independence? 

    As Moores concluded in his Senate testimony with regards to securing critical mineral resource supply chains:

    “It is not too late for the US but action is needed now.”

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  • State Department Hopeful More Nations Will Join Energy Resource Governance Initiative in the Wake of COVID

    ***posted by Daniel McGroarty***

    As demand for renewable energy continues to grow despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of State hopes to expand the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) – an initiative launched last year by the United States and joined by ten other countries, including Canada, Australia and Brazil – aimed at improving supply chain security for the metals and minerals underpinning green energy technology. 

    Under the initiative announced in June, the U.S. ”will share mining expertise with member countries to help them discover and develop their minerals such as lithium, copper and cobalt, as well as advise on management and governance frameworks to help ensure their industries are attractive to international investors.”

    Earlier this month, Frank Fannon, a top-ranking U.S. energy diplomat, told Reuters that “[w]e are very much looking to expand ERGI to include other governments as well as governmental institutions,” stating that he has been in talks with the European Commission, and that an expansion of the initiative could “include emerging-economy countries around the world, as well as Japan and other developed countries in Asia with strong energy demand.” 

    The announcement ties into broader efforts to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) critical raw materials in the post-COVID context now gaining momentum in Washington, D.C., several of which ARPN’s own Sandra Wirtz outlined in an op-ed for The Economic Standard last week: 

    “The new urgency is exemplified by new legislation introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas): The Onshoring Rare Earths Act of 2020, or ORE Act, seeks to reduce U.S. reliance on China for critical minerals. Defined as the 17 rare earths, plus four key minerals underpinning battery technology (lithium, cobalt, graphite and manganese), the ‘Cruz Criticals’ are key to establishing a domestic supply chain. The bill proposes a series of measures aimed at encouraging domestic mineral production, and strengthens existing federal statutes prohibiting rare earth magnet sourcing from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Recognizing that mineral production can take many forms, from traditional mining to recycling, reclamation from legacy mines, coal waste and even fracking water, it also sets up a federally-funded pilot program for traditional mining of critical minerals as well as what Cruz terms ‘secondary recovery projects.’  (…)

    Meanwhile, the Department of Energy (DOE) is broadening its target list to include the above-referenced building blocks of battery tech. In a list close in composition to the Cruz Criticals, DOE is asking for project proposals to develop, in cooperation with its technology hubs, next generation technologies to extract, separate and process ‘key critical materials’: five rare earths — neodymium, praesodymium, dysprosium, terbium, and samarium — as well as cobalt, lithium, manganese, and natural graphite.

    At the White House, two new Executive Orders take aim at strategic materials and critical mineral development.  One Order, directing an executive branch review to reduce the regulatory burdens under NEPA — the longstanding National Environmental Policy Act — in order to speed infrastructure, energy and mining projects, has triggered threats of legal action that, if successful, could stop the regulatory review even before it begins. While receiving far less media attention, the second Executive Order, delegating Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III emergency authorities to the U.S. Development Finance Corporation, including the authority to underwrite loans to support strategic material production, could prove more meaningful.  And unlike a standard-issue Executive Order, which can be undone by a successor president with the stroke of a pen, the DPA allows any president to delegate authorities by law — without requiring Congressional approval.”  

    This list of initiatives provides a snapshot, and several additional pieces of legislation aimed at reducing U.S. mineral resource dependencies have been introduced.

    As Wirtz closed last week’s op-ed: 

    “All of which is to say that, after long period of inaction, the U.S. Government seems to be viewing strategic materials and critical minerals issues with a new seriousness.  That’s a welcome development.  COVID, with its sudden disruption of supply chains, should be the last warning the U.S. needs to bolster our mineral resource security going forward.”

    Read the full op-ed here.

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  • National Security Expert Calls for Securing Domestic Mineral Resource Supply Chains: “Crisis Borne from China’s Predation and Our Own Neglect No Longer Theoretical”

    After decades of watching “China become the world’s workshop as it snatches up industries, jobs and critical supply chains, [i]t’s time to restructure the global economy in our favor, and that means decisive action to shore up our most important industries,” writes Brig. Gen. John Adams (U.S. Army, retired), president of national security consulting firm Guardian Six [...]
  • Materials Science Revolution Continues to Yield Breakthroughs – a Look at Scandium

    Did you turn on the TV to watch the SpaceX Crew Dragon take off en route to the International Space Station yesterday only to be disappointed?  The long-awaited historic first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly nine years has been postponed due to weather, but there’s a still good chance we will [...]
  • U.S. Import Reliance, Supply Chains, and National Security – A Visual

    The current coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on many aspects of social life and public policy. With nations struggling to secure critical medicines and other supplies, many of which are sourced from China, the global crisis is increasingly exposing the challenges associated with supply chain security — for medical devices, for personal protective [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for The Economic Standard: Red Swan – a Leaked 2010 Cable on Critical Infrastructure/Key Resource Vulnerabilities Provided Warning Signs We Failed To Act On

    In a new piece for The Economic Standard, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues that while the “intellectual shrug” of “who could have seen this coming” tends to be a common reaction to our new normal of sheltering in place and social distancing, there were warning signs for a coming crisis we failed to recognize for what they were, and act [...]
  • Mining Sector Essential Part of Nation’s Critical Infrastructure Workforce

    As the U.S. grapples to flatten the curve of the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, large swaths of public life have come to a grinding halt. However, as North of 60 Mining News publisher Shane Lasley points out in a new piece for the publication, “it remains imperative for the nation to maintain the critical [...]
  • To Reduce Supply Chain Vulnerabilities, U.S. Should Tap Domestic Mineral Resources More

    Over the past few weeks, the spread of the coronavirus has begun to expose the supply chain challenges associated with an over-reliance on foreign raw materials, the effects of which will be felt across broad segments of manufacturing. In a new piece for PennLive Patriot-News, Michael Stumo, CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America [...]
  • Addressing a Piece of the Mineral Resource Puzzle – Federal Land Withdrawals

    As followers of ARPN know, the United States has finally embarked on a quest to look for ways to reduce its over-reliance on foreign mineral resources, and in doing so, reduce the leverage it has yielded to nations like China over our national security. In a new series for the Capital Research Center, geologist and [...]
  • 2020 – A Twofold Watershed Year for Rare Earths?

    Against the backdrop of the recently-signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) for critical materials between the U.S. and Canada to reduce U.S. reliance on Chinese Rare Earths supplies, and the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which  “has expanded its recognition of the critical importance of the rare earths” … “2020 looks to be a [...]

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