American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 3D Printing & the “New Rare Earths”

    A 3D Printer

    “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 against REE-dependent Japan — has run its course.

    The new shiny object in the tech world: 3D printing.

    But dig deeper (at ARPN, the pun is always intended), and the story gets more complex. Technical papers — like this one from Germany’s Munster University — are reporting that one of the best materials for the 3D printing process are compounds like Nano-Yttria and Lutetium-Aluminum Garnet. From the literature, it seems that these compounds excel as “ligands” — binding agents in the 3D printing process.

    Which means that the next new thing — 3D printing — will require plenty of the “last new thing” — Rare Earths.

    That’s a useful corrective to the commentators who routinely claim that manufacturers will find ways to substitute around Rare Earth Elements. Of course, in many cases, they will. And in just as many instances, other researchers will find new applications for Rare Earths.

    Meanwhile, China’s production monopoly has shrunk — from 97% in 2010 to 95% today.

    As the fashion industry well knows, sometimes “the new black” is… black. 3D printing is a truly revolutionary concept destined to transform the process of manufacturing. But to the extent that 3D will require specific Rare Earths in the manufacturing process, the Rare Earths are still “the next Rare Earths.”

    And unless the industrialized democracies want to see 3D printing become the new engine of China’s economy, someone needs to make the actual mining of critical metals and minerals “the next new thing.”

  • 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 on global REE supply and production, in this year’s report to the House Armed Services Committee, the agency strikes a more urgent tone and looks to stockpiling as a means to “hedge” the supply risk associated with being at the mercy of China.

    In his piece, Robertson frequently cites American Resources principal Daniel McGroarty, who invokes Adam Smith’s reflection on dependence on foreign resources that “it might not always be prudent to depend upon our neighbors for the supply.” The materials Smith referred to were certainly different at the time – sailcloth and gunpowder – but their strategic relevance at the time is comparable to the relevance of REEs today.

    Outlining the various scenarios drawn up by the DoD report, Robertson closes by explaining how the “sometimes haphazard and fragmented nature of how rare earths are obtained from China” complicate the assessment:

    “Complicating the assessment is the sometimes haphazard and fragmented nature of how rare earths are obtained from China: in the south of the country, tens of thousands of metric tonnes of rare earths are thought to be wrung from the ground, and refined and exported, by a chaotic chain of fly-by-night mining operators — none of those figures go into the official books. Estimates for that illicit activity range from 10,000 to 40,000 metric tonnes per year.”

    At the height of its production, Molycorp, a U.S.-based miner of rare earth elements that was hit hard by China’s rock-bottom prices, says it planned to produce 20,000 metric tonnes of product in 2012. This means the underground Chinese supply component could be as much as double the entire U.S. supply, which goes some way to illustrating the opaque and potentially volatile nature of Chinese supply.
    “Think about how nervous that would make a Pentagon planner,” McGroarty says.

    Quite a bit, seems to be the answer – and, for good reason, considering the fact that the United States once again ranks worst when it comes to mining permitting delays (an indicator of the time it takes to bring a new mine online) in a renowned annual ranking released by mining advisory firm Behre Dolbear.

  • New NCPA report traces REE potential and related obstacles in the U.S.

    It’s time the United States overhaul its outdated and rigid permitting process and begin harnessing our vast rare earths potential while promoting economic and job growth – that’s not just something the American Resources Policy Network has been advocating for quite some time, it is also the finding of a new study released by our [...]
  • Alaska Senate passes resolution in support of REE exploration

    Alaska continues to be a state leader when it comes to formulating mineral resource policy. In line with Gov. Sean Parnell’s five-part strategy to support the mining industry, the State Senate has passed a resolution in support of in-state Rare Earths exploration, which urges state agencies and the federal government to lend its support to [...]
  • Antimony metal to be watched

    In a piece for DailyMarkets.com, analyst Jeb Handwerger zeroes in on Antimony. Antimony is a key component in fire retardants as well as batteries, ceramics, touch-screen technology, glass, and ammunition and has seen largely stable prices in unstable economic times. With China being its top producer controlling nearly 90 percent of global supply and other [...]
  • Study confirms occurrence of REEs in Germany

    Early last year, we highlighted new Rare Earth exploration efforts in Saxony, Germany, where a newly formed company called Seltene Erden Storkwitz AG was slated to kick off drilling operations in the East German state. They did kick off, and the long-suspected occurrence of Rare Earths in the area has now been confirmed by a [...]
  • New year, new players in the REE game?

    In an ongoing reaction to China’s restrictive mineral policies, countries are expanding their efforts to look for alternative supplies of sought-after commodities. Case in point is Japan, which in recent months has inked cooperative agreements with a number of other nations including India and Vietnam. Its most recent effort is focused on what is better [...]
  • The OPEC of Rare Earths – China’s Resource Stranglehold and its National Security Implications

    In his latest column for Real Clear World, American Resources Principal Daniel McGroarty zeros in on China’s dominance of the Rare Earths market. Invoking lopsided production numbers – in spite of international efforts to develop Rare Earths outside of China, China’s supply monopoly still hovers at 95 percent – McGroarty likens China’s REE control to [...]
  • New Year’s Resolutions for U.S. Policymakers (Part 2)

    Below is part two of American Resources’ three-part 2012 retrospective. Check out part one here. Traditionally, the New Year is the time when people reflect on the past twelve months and formulate resolutions for the months ahead. As the first hours of 2013 have been dominated by the drama the Fiscal Cliff, our Federal lawmakers [...]
  • German government agency emphasizes domestic resources

    In its Energy Study 2012, the German Mineral Resources Agency (DERA) emphasizes the importance of using domestic raw materials against the backdrop of increased price volatility and supply risk. As summarized by the German daily Handelsblatt, the agency’s core message is as follows (rough translation): Supply shortages are likely to occur not due to due [...]