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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Penn State University Launches Center for Critical Minerals

    Against the backdrop of a growing awareness of our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources — one need to look no further than the current coverage of China’s threat to play the “rare earths card” — Penn State University is launching a Center for Critical Minerals.

    Under the auspices of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, the Center will “leverage Penn State’s existing faculty, facilities and research strengths in an effort to make the University the go-to resource for critical minerals research and technical support for industry.”

    Says Pete Rozelle, A Penn State alumnus and retired program manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, who advises the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences on mineral resource issues:

    “Penn State has a long tradition of meeting industry and government research needs in the minerals field. (…) From geologic exploration to mineral extraction technologies to techno-economic analyses, the University’s new Center for Critical Minerals offers a comprehensive set of capabilities to support the development of new U.S. sources for these mineral products.”

    The center’s focus will be placed on:

    “Gain[ing]  a fundamental understanding of the presence, chemical nature and associations of critical mineral products in geologic formations, as well as secondary sources such as coal and other mining waste streams and metallurgical waste dumps, electronic waste and sludges from the treatment of acid mine drainage, and byproduct water from the oil and gas industry.

    -Develop[ing] novel processes for extraction and separation/purification while advancing the fundamentals and developing technologies for sustainable recovery of critical materials.

    -Develop[ing] financial models and project values utilizing realistic models for field-scale processes for mineral recovery and detailed databases for costs and price projections.

    -Analyz[ing] alternate economic and policy scenarios and develop policy guidelines for implementation of field projects.

    -Provid[ing] technical support for commercial project development activities associated with bridging value chain gaps.

    In its efforts, the center will collaborate with government and the private sector.  This approach  has already yielded some great breakthroughs, several of which we have featured in our Materials Science Profiles of Progress series on the ARPN blog — including a successful collaboration between Penn State and DoE researchers to develop an “economical way to extract rare earth elements from coal byproducts using an advanced ion exchange method.”

    Of course, however, while we applaud the effort, followers of ARPN will know that the initiative can only be considered one piece of the puzzle, and must be firmly embedded in the context of a “broader strategy to ‘ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.”

    Hopefully, the developments we’ve witnessed over the last few weeks on the mineral resource front will serve as a catalyst for the formulation and implementation of said broader strategy.

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  • ARPN’s McGroarty Quoted in Daily Caller Piece on the Specter of China Playing the “Rare Earths Card”

    Reporting for the Daily Caller, Michael Bastasch zeroes in on what has once again become a hot button issue – Rare Earth Elements (REEs) in the context of trade relations, as reported Chinese threats to “escalate its trade dispute with the Trump administration to include rare earth minerals has, once again, shined a spotlight on U.S. dependency for elements used in hundreds of hi-tech products and military equipment.”

    Bastasch cites ARPN’s Dan McGroarty, who says that “China is letting the U.S. know that it has leverage.”

    Followers of ARPN will remember that China is no stranger to playing politics with its near-total rare earth supply monopoly.

    McGroarty hopes that these threats could in fact serve as a catalyst for Congressional and/or executive actions to reduce our nation’s over-reliance on foreign mineral imports – because the issue is, to a large extent, a self-inflicted problem. 

    Says McGroarty:

    “The irony, and that is an understatement, is that the U.S. has rare earth deposits capable of meeting national security needs, and ending the reliance on China. With China saber-rattling on the rare earths, this could be the time for a strong U.S. response.”

    Bastasch outlines the scope of our REE dependence and legislative efforts currently underway on Capitol Hill, which we have discussed on our blog, including a Senate bill introduced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and House legislation sponsored by Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada.

    McGroarty is hopeful that efforts to overhaul our nation’s mineral resource policy which have long been lagging may get traction in light of the looming specter of China playing the “rare earths card,” saying that “Congress is working now on the 2020 defense bill, with signs that there will be legislation directing the Pentagon to act to incentivize U.S. rare earth production.”

    Whether or not China will go through with this threat remains to be seen, but we could not agree more with Dan Kish, distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, whom Bastasch quotes as saying:

    “Regardless of the outcome of trade discussions, this matter must be addressed.”

    Click here to read the full article. 

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  • REEs Underscore Challenges of Erosion of Defense Industrial Base

    While policies stemming from the dominating free-trade ideology “have succeeded in generating great wealth for the U.S. economy, they have also led to a number of unintended consequences, including the erosion of the manufacturing segment of the defense industrial base,” argues Jeff Green, president of Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm J.A. Green & Company, and member of [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 – [...]
  • 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 [...]

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