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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The Arctic – A Looming Battlefield for Resource Supremacy?

    While relations between Russia and the United States continue to make headlines on a daily basis, one particular aspect of this relationship – in spite of the fact that it may be one of the most contentious ones – has been largely flying under the radar.

    As Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin recently wrote:

    “The next battle for supremacy between the U.S. and Russia is shaping up to be a lot chillier than the last Cold War with the Soviet superpower.”

    Griffin’s temperature reference invokes the geographic location of the site of contention rather than the intensity of the looming “battle” – the Arctic.  And while said “battle” will likely not escalate into actual warfare, stakeholders would be well advised to pay closer attention to what is happening to our North, as it is currently the site of “the focus of a resource grab by Russia and China.”

    Just last month, the Russian defense ministry invited visitors to its website to take a “visual tour” of its new military base in Franz Josef Land, a huge remote archipelago in the Arctic which President Vladimir Putin visited in March of this year.  The base is the second Arctic one built in the Putin era, with the Russian military planning the installation of four additional military bases in region in the coming years.

    While Russia has been flexing its military muscle in the resource-rich Arctic, which it sees as a key strategic location - all while touting peaceful cooperation on the diplomacy front – China, notwithstanding its cartographical lack of an Arctic footprint, has also made a foray into the region over the past few years.

    According to the country’s State Oceanic Administration, China, which considers itself a “near-Arctic state,” views the region as holding “the inherited wealth of all humankind.”  Consequently, China has not only sought, and in 2013 secured, permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, but has also stepped up investment and diplomacy in the region, with Chinese President Xi Jinping incorporating two Arctic stopovers – one in Finland and one in Alaska – into his trip to the United States to meet with President Trump this spring.

    These moves, coupled with the normalization of previously icy relations between China and Norway, and a free trade agreement between Iceland and China, have led professors at Tsinghua University to conclude that “Bejing’s [new Silk Road] strategy does not stop at belt and road”, and rather includes “One belt, one road, and one circle,” with the circle referring to the Arctic circle.

    Meanwhile, the United States is “woefully behind” in the Arctic race, as former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp, who served as the State Department’s special representative to the Arctic, recently told Fox News, adding that:

    “We’ve got our minds on a lot of other things around the world, and we’re not focused on the Arctic. (…) Russia, on the other hand, is very connected. It’s part of their culture. They appreciate the riches, the oil and gas reserves that they have along that very long coastline, and they are looking to exploit it for their own prosperity.”

    China is obviously looking to do the same.

    As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty previously pointed out, the United States’ claim to the Arctic comes via Alaska, and what he said a few years ago, is perhaps even more pertinent today:

    “For the U.S., our Arctic claims come via Alaska – a.k.a. Seward’s Folly, and perhaps the best $7.2 million ever spent by the U.S. Government. Across a range of metals and minerals, expect Alaska – and by extension, our Arctic claims – to play a key role in resource supply in the 21st century. Forget the folly: let’s make that William Seward, futurist.”

    In this context, one can only hope that the recent settlement between the EPA and the Pebble Partnership over the Pebble Deposit in Alaska – albeit years overdue – will be part of a growing realization that it is time to assertively stake the United States’ claim in the Arctic and near-Arctic environs.  The other players have made it clear that they will not wait for us.

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  • EPA Settlement on Pebble Deposit Positive Development for Due Process Advocates

    A few years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a splash when it took unprecedented early action in an effort to derail the development of one of the largest domestic deposits of key strategic mineral resources (Copper, Molybdenum, Gold, Silver and Rhenium) – the so-called Pebble Deposit in Southwestern Alaska.  In spite of the fact that no permit application or specific plans had been submitted, the agency released a cursory review of the Bristol Bay Watershed in Alaska which sounded the alarm on the possible impact of hypothetical mining – even though previous EPA assertions of such preemptive power had been rebuffed in federal court.

    The EPA’s decision to preemptively veto the project before any application had been filed represented a unilateral expansion of EPA powers under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

    Now, in a course reversal and big victory for due process advocates, the EPA under its new administrator Scott Pruitt and Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals has settled the long-standing dispute, which had culminated in 2014 with a lawsuit over the EPA’s decision to block development of the Pebble Deposit.

    ARPN followers may recall that ARPN consistently argued in favor of due process and warned against effectively allowing the EPA to grant itself ultimate authority to derail any project in the United States that touches on water — with potential impact for projects in every sector of the US economy, from mining to farming, manufacturing, building, energy, and water treatment.

    Announced earlier this month, the settlement now reached affords the Pebble Limited Partnership the opportunity to apply for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act, after which point the EPA could move forward with its Clean Water Act process to “specify limits on the disposal of certain material in connection with the potential “Pebble Mine.”

    Says EPA Chief Pruitt: 

    “We are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are ‘regular.’ We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides. The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation. We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.”

    Whether or not the deposit will ultimately be developed remains to be seen. However, with rigorous environmental review standards and processes already in place, it is encouraging to see that the EPA is returning to merit-based evaluation of actual projects within the given legal and regulatory framework, rather than relying on vague hypotheticals to derail potential mining projects before they even present a mining plan for formal review.

    And while the settlement stands as a win for due process, friends of ARPN will appreciate the bittersweet aspect of a “victory” that ran six years off the clock on the Pebble project, allowing the project to do in 2017 what it had hoped to do in 2011.  During that time, U.S. dependency has deepened for some of the very metals and minerals Pebble might bring to market.  And for the company that optioned the Pebble deposit in 2001, after 16 years, they’ve arrived at the permitting starting line.

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  • As EPA Administrator visits Bristol Bay, environmentalists repeat call for preemptive veto

    While Members of Congress spent some time in their home districts last month, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy traveled to Alaska to discuss the President’s climate action plan and hear arguments from stakeholders in the Bristol Bay area on the proposed Pebble mine. Opponents of the project used the occasion to once more push for a [...]
  • Dan McGroarty discusses looming EPA power-grab for Forbes

    In a new piece for Forbes, American Resources Policy Network principal Daniel McGroarty discusses the EPA’s apparent readiness to unilaterally expand its powers under the Clean Water Act to pre-emptively veto a promising mining project in Alaska – the Pebble Mine. As McGroarty argues, if the EPA were to issue a veto based on its [...]
  • EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment: A Factual Review of a Hypothetical Scenario

    Testimony presented by Daniel McGroarty – Oversight Hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology Subcommittee, August 1, 2013 Chairman Broun, Ranking Member Maffei, Members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Daniel McGroarty, and I am president of the American Resources Policy [...]
  • Senate hearing puts price tag on EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

    The Daily Caller Foundation’s Michael Bastasch, who has consistently offered thorough coverage of some of the most pressing mineral- and mining-related issues, last week took a closer look at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s spending on the agency’s controversial Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. According to Bastasch, during a recent U.S. Senate hearing, “Ken Kopocis, President [...]
  • Debate over Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment should focus on NEPA process, not emotional hyperbole and over-simplification

    With the public commenting period for the EPA’s revised Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment now closed, Environment and Energy Publishing’s Manuel Quinones zeroes in on the comments submitted to the agency in his latest piece for E&E Daily (subscription required). According to the article, the battle lines are drawn on the push by environmentalist groups for [...]
  • Op-ed: A Potential Copper Bonanza Runs Afoul of the EPA

    The following op-ed by American Resources Principal Dan McGroarty was published in the Wall Street Journal on July 5, 2013. The original text can be found here. A Potential Copper Bonanza Runs Afoul of the EPA The metal is essential for wind turbines, but a proposed mine in Alaska has set off Keystone-like alarms. By Daniel [...]
  • Dan McGroarty featured (again) on the Glen Biegel Show

    American Resources President Dan McGroarty made his second appearance on the Glen Biegel Show in Anchorage, AK on Monday to discuss the U.S. mining permitting process and the proposed Pebble mine. Listen below.    
  • Left-of-center group calls for due process on domestic mining project

    As we’re approaching the end of the EPA’s (extended) public comment period for its revised Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, the surprises keep piling up. Only a few short days ago, the Washington Post – which is, as we’ve pointed out, not known to be a mouthpiece of the mining industry – came out against a [...]

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