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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 a new piece for National Review:

    “Where U.S.–China trade and tariff issues are concerned, China now holds a powerful trump card. Many of the advanced-technology and strategic-defense systems upon which our nation depends will not function without Chinese rare earth parts — and alternative parts makers are not in place to fill our needs. Therefore, it might be a bad day at the bargaining table for the U.S. if and when China decides to play its rare earth card.”

    To explain the United States’ retreat from being the world’s top minerals producer and exporter in the 1990s and China’s mineral resource dominance, Mamula and Bridges offer a point-by-point comparison of Chinese policies  “with the results of past U.S. minerals policies and sentiment about mining — ranging from apathy about critical minerals to open hostility toward their domestic production.”

    While the comparison paints a bleak picture, there are ways “out of this mineral-dependency mess.” Friends of ARPN won’t be surprised that Mamula and Bridges point to presidential executive order (EO 13817), which has set the stage for domestic mineral resource reform.  The proof remains in the pudding and the Congressional record since the announcement of the executive order has been somewhat mixed.

    However, the bottom line, according to Mamula and Bridges stands:

    “As informed citizens, we should embrace and not shrink from U.S. mineral wealth. It is an important part of our American resource endowment. Like the Canadians, Australians, and other resource-rich nations, we should insist on and applaud a vibrant mining industry. Investment in the technology and energy sectors now needs to include mining, too, as it supplies us with so much and can also contribute mightily to the GDP.

    The math is simple: More American mining = less Chinese mineral imports.

    The only real, sustainable pushback against the Chinese mineral-industry juggernaut, which is burying the U.S. with critical mineral imports, is more domestic mining. There really is no other way.”

    Perhaps the release of the Administration’s long-awaited defense-industrial base study, which we’re expecting any day now as per the Defense Department’s top acquisition official, will inject some fresh momentum into domestic mineral resource policy overhaul efforts.  With Rare Earths particularly at risk, the fragility of the U.S. defense supply chain looms large.

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  • While Some Reforms Fizzled, Enacted NDAA Contains Potentially Precedent-Setting REE Sourcing Provision

    As we have noted, the recently-signed John S. McCain (may he rest in peace) National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), stands as a missed opportunity to enact several meaningful mineral resource policy reforms.

    Nonetheless, one provision of the signed legislation marks an important development for the realm of resource policy – so important, in fact, that Jeffery A. Green, president and founder of J. A. Green & Company and member of the ARPN panel of experts calls it “the single biggest legislative development in the rare earth sector since the 2010 Chinese embargo created an awareness of our military’s reliance on foreign rare earth materials.”

    The NDAA’s Section 873, “Prohibition on acquisition of sensitive materials from non-allied foreign nations,” amends Subchapter V of chapter 148 of title 10, U.S. Code by inserting section 2533c – which, among other things, effectively prevents the Pentagon from sourcing of Rare Earth Magnets from China.

    In response to questions from InvestorIntel, Green provides some more context:

    “The new law which sets an increased budget for defense expenditure prevents the purchase of rare earth magnets from China, which currently produces 85-90% per cent of the world’s rare earth magnets. Some 90% of rare earths consumed by the US military are produced by China.

    The new law takes effect immediately, but practically speaking, it will take the DoD some time to implement the law through regulation and to start including the prohibition in new contracts.

    To be clear, this law only applies to the use of Chinese NdFeB (Neodymium, Iron, Boron) and SmCo (Samarium, Cobalt) magnets, the latter being already subject to a previous law requiring domestic sourcing.

    The new law, 10 U.S.C. 2533c, closely mirrors an existing domestic sourcing law, ‘the specialty metals clause’, at 10 U.S.C. 2533b.  While the latter is a Buy American clause, the former states DOD will not allow rare earth magnets and tungsten in weapon systems that is produced by potential adversaries.

    The law explicitly prohibits rare earth magnets and tungsten from being ‘melted or produced’ in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. That means the production of the magnet can’t be in those countries, so importers and distributors can’t simply bring magnet block into another country and finish into a final part – the law is designed to reinvigorate rare earth magnet manufacturing outside of China.”

    As Green had previously stated in a piece for Real Clear Defense as the bill was being considered by lawmakers:

    “While a good first step, and one long overdue, Sec. 873 addresses just a small percentage of America’s import dependence for essential military components. In next year’s NDAA, Congress should consider expanding this provision, with input from the technical experts at the Department of Defense, to include other critical minerals essential to national security.”

    With the precedent-setting passage of the amendment, the groundwork has been laid for this to actually happen. Writes Green:

    “The DOD may ask in the near future for new materials to be added to 10 U.S.C. 2533c, so there’s a good chance that this precedent continues as the Trump Administration seeks to eliminate the strategic vulnerability of foreign import reliance for critical materials – this bodes well for prospective producers outside China and Russia.”

    Read the full InvestorIntel piece here.

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  • Rare Earths Issue Back in the Mix As Trade Tensions With China Escalate

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the inter-relationship between resource policy and trade policy. While more recently, we looked at tensions in our relationship with Canada over tariffs on aluminum and steel, other areas of concern are coming into focus. Mounting tensions over trade with China have brought the Rare Earths issue, with which ARPN [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Researchers Turn to Bioengineered Bacteria to Recover REEs

    Followers of ARPN are well aware that we have been calling out policy makers and other stakeholders for their inaction when it comes to working towards the development of a coherent, forward-looking and comprehensive mineral resource strategy – and we frequently point to missed opportunities to work towards this goal. While we stand by our [...]
  • Critical Materials Institute Head Puts Apple’s Goal to Stop Mining in Context

    Recently, tech giant Apple made a bit of a splash with the announcement of a lofty sustainability goal — one the company itself is not sure how to achieve yet. Kicking off its new Environmental Responsibility Report with the question “Can we one day stop mining the Earth altogether?,” Apple commits itself to working towards a “closed-loop supply chain, where [...]
  • North Korean Brinkmanship Highlights Nexus Between Resource Policy and Geopolitics

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the important but oft-overlooked nexus between resource policy and geopolitics.   The latest case in point is South Korea, which, as ARPN President Daniel McGroarty points out in his latest opinion piece for Fox News, is navigating murky waters “talking sunshine and Rare Earths as North Korean war clouds gather.” For decades, [...]
  • The U.S. Tomahawk Strike – Syria, Russia … and China?

    While the world media mulls the impact of the U.S. airstrike on Syria in the wake of the sarin gas attack and marvel at the accuracy of the Tomahawk cruise missile, friends of ARPN are reminded that the rare earths critical to the Tomahawk’s terminal guidance system are sourced from China. An interesting sidebar to [...]
  • Guest Commentary: Jeff Green On New Congressional REE Policy Initiative

    The following is a guest post by American Resources expert and J.A. Green & Company president and founder Jeffery A. Green The United States has placed itself in a very precarious situation with respect to its ability to produce and refine strategic and critical materials. Over the past few years we have willfully ceded our last remaining [...]
  • USGS Report Bellwether for National Security Crisis?

    For over two decades, the United States Geological Survey has released its Mineral Commodity Summaries report.  And while ARPN followers will know how important this publication is, as it provides a snapshot of our nation’s mineral resource dependencies, in most years its release has gone largely unnoticed beyond the circles of mineral resource wonks. This year, a [...]
  • As Resource Dependence Deepens, Miners Pivot Back to U.S. For Exploration

    Against the backdrop of market prices recovering and supply woes looming, mining companies are expected to increase spending on exploration for the first time in five years, reports news agency Reuters. In what may spell good news for the United States, analysts anticipate the biggest expenditure increases to occur in the United States, Canada and Australia, all [...]

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