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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 national outlet has taken note – and it may be good timing, as our growing reliance on foreign mineral resources spell trouble.

    Earlier this month, John Moody, Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News, raised the specter of the President and his administration having to face the “very real possibility that China could cut off U.S. access to 17 rare materials vital to our advanced aircraft and guided missile systems,” as China has a near-total supply monopoly for Rare Earths.

    In a new piece for Fox News, Moody, citing the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries report, highlights the United States’ 100 percent import dependency for at least 20 metals and minerals, and the fact that China is the most common source for many of these and other metals and minerals listed in the USGS report. According to Moody, this is a serious threat to our future military security – a threat which albeit acknowledged, has so far largely been ignored.

    Moody quotes REE expert and mining industry veteran George Byers, who confirms:

    “That 2017 USGS report is not fake news, (…). You have 29 or 30 studies on critical materials, including rare earths that go back to the early ‘90s. The outcome of each study is to declare ‘we have a crisis, let’s do something about it.’ But all they do about it, is to ask for another study.”

    Pointing to a legislative effort to be spearheaded by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R, Calif.), which seeks to mandate that the U.S. military obtain Rare Earths sourced domestically – even if this would mean subsidizing those industries – Moody explains the underlying challenge:

    “The problem, these analysts note, is that U.S. production capacity in this area has been allowed to wither to almost nothing, due to plentiful supplies from China that can be produced at a lower price than U.S. made rare earths.

    Even more perilous, China’s own rapacious demand for rare earths is outstripping its ability to supply domestic consumers as well as the U.S., meaning it may be unable to ship goods to the U.S. even if it wants to.

     In addition to rare earths, which are vital components of high-grade permanent magnets used in military aircraft and missile systems, the United States, according to the USGS report, is now 100 percent reliant on foreign countries for supplies of manganese, which is used to make impact resistant steel, among other things. Though readily available in mines in Arizona, Arkansas and Minnesota, it can be imported more cheaply. The USGS study lists American production of manganese last year as: zero.”

    Indeed, Rare Earths – though of critical importance for our domestic manufacturers and our military, are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and with trade issues looming and the global race for mineral resources heating up, our failure to respond to these supply challenges may soon come to haunt us.  Perhaps more national exposure for these issues will help generate some much-needed momentum for the formulation of a comprehensive mineral strategy this year.

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  • 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 of which are considered “safe bets” due to lower operating risks and high technology standards.  Providing a private sector viewpoint, Stephen McIntosh, group executive for growth and innovation at Rio Tinto, says:

    At quiet periods in the cycle, we will typically press out into non-OECD countries (…) But at the moment, we’re focusing on the OECD, predominately the Americas, and predominately for copper.

    The development comes at a critical time when U.S. mineral resource dependencies are deepening, as the USGS’s just-released Mineral Commodity Summaries report shows.   And while for Copper (which is one of the main metals discussed in the Reuters piece) our overall dependence may have slightly dropped, demand is likely to grow significantly — due to increased infrastructure and clean tech investments (both areas in which Copper is becoming increasingly indispensible), and because of its status as a Gateway Metal (to scarce specialty metals like Rhenium, Selenium, Tellurium, Cobalt and in some instances the Rare Earths).

    While Reuters reports on these developments largely from a market perspective, there may be policy considerations at work, here, too:

    The mining industry’s pivoting back towards the United States may reflect a growing optimism that with a new Administration at the helm in Washington, DC, policies devised at creating a regulatory environment that is more conducive to responsible domestic resource development may stand a better chance.  Here’s hoping that their optimism is well founded – America’s economic well-being, as well as our competitiveness and national security would be well-served.

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  • China’s REE Stranglehold Comes Back Into Focus

    If the first few weeks with a new administration at the helm in Washington, DC are any indication, we will see more efforts to make sweeping changes in federal policy in the coming weeks.  One area where President Donald Trump promised changes on the campaign trail is trade – and specifically relations with China. In [...]
  • As Japan Retreats, US Dozes Off Again On Critical Minerals

    Over the course of the last few months, slumping prices have prompted Japanese companies to reassess their rare metals strategies and cancel cooperative agreements that were once considered a high priority. As Nikkei Asian Review reports, state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC) has cancelled a joint exploration contract for a tungsten mine in [...]
  • U.S. Forest Service Puts Damper On New Year For Wyoming

    What could have been a great start of the year for Wyoming’s economy and the United States’ critical resource needs had the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) done its job, feels more like a hangover thanks to the agency. As Laura Skaer, executive director of the American Exploration & Mining Association, writes for the Casper Star Tribune, the [...]
  • The “Electronification of Everything” Raises Specter of “War Over the Periodic Table”

    Via our friend and ARPN expert Simon Moores’ Twitter feed, we came across a three-part must-read series for Bloomberg View, in which author and policy expert David S. Abraham discusses the role of rare earths in today’s increasingly high-tech world.   Perhaps most interestingly, Abraham clarifies a common misconception in part two of the series: “Although [...]
  • The Geo-Politics of Rare Earths: China Reported to Add to Stockpile

    ARPN readers know that one of the core tenets of the Resource Wars thesis is that the market for strategic and critical metals is never immune to government interventions. Witness today’s Bloomberg report: “China Said to Add 10,000 Tons to Rare Earths Stockpiles.” Bloomberg reports: “China may stockpile more medium-to-heavy rare earths this year such [...]
  • Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory to Drive Critical Mineral Demand

    The graphite, lithium and cobalt industries are set for major demand surges as Tesla Motors prepares to break ground on its super-battery plant, the Gigafactory, next month. The high-end EV manufacturer is looking to double the world’s battery output as it seeks to bring the production cost of battery packs down in a bid to [...]
  • 3D Printing & the “New Rare Earths”

    “3D printing companies are the new Rare Earths.” Thus spake Twitter, a few hundred-million Tweets ago, giving birth to the new meme on what matters most in our constantly-evolving technology world. Meaning, of course, that the furor over Rare Earths sparked three years back — when China used its then-97% production monopoly as a weapon [...]
  • The Epoch Times on why the Pentagon wants “to buy rocks”

    The Epoch Times’s Matthew Robertson takes a closer look at the Pentagon’s request to Congress “for over a billion dollars. To buy rocks” – at a time when budget cuts should be the order of the day in Washington. He notes that while in previous years, the Department of Defense merely noted China’s near-total monopoly [...]

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