American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Coronavirus Underscores Perils of Resource Dependence – A Look at Rare Earths

    While many first think of the human dimension and health implications of the recent outbreak and ongoing spread of the coronavirus — and quite rightly, given the potentially  fatal consequences — the crisis with pandemic potential has ramifications that reach far beyond the health sector. In a new piece for Tech Metal News, Shane Lasley takes a closer look. He writes:

    “Instead of export restrictions resulting from politics or trade disputes, it now seems that the novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) outbreak could leave the U.S. and the rest of the world with an REE shortage.”

    The spread of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, capital of the Chinese province of Hubei, earlier this year, has indeed had – in the words of analyst Jack Lifton, a “foreseeable but unintended consequence.” 

    As Lasley outlines, an increasingly limited workforce and slowed transportation as truck drivers refuse to enter areas of concern and travel is restricted have prompted reports that China’s rare earth sector has slowed “to a crawl” and is currently “running at about 20 percent capacity.” This has prompted industry experts to warn that “dwindling REE stockpiles could result in supply chain disruptions both within the country and globally,” if the“sector does not get back up and running soon.”

    To ARPN Principal Daniel McGroarty, whom Lasley quotes throughout his piece, this prospect is hardly surprising.  He says:

    “It’s not necessary to predict how severe the coronavirus will be or how long it will last, to see even at this early point that, in our interconnected global economy, near single-source reliance for a critical material is a vulnerability.”

    …All of which underscores the need for the United States to diversify its sources of mineral resource supplies — for rare earths and beyond. 

    Concludes McGroarty:

    “Saying an event is a ‘black swan,’ beyond anyone’s power to predict, is no excuse for failing to develop more diverse supply. (…) Just as world health organizations are laser-focused on developing an anti-virus vaccine, we’ve got to take steps to ensure the U.S. economy builds up its immunity to global shocks that can destroy growth and GDP – and a key part of that is avoiding extreme dependencies on any one country for critical minerals.”

    Steps taken over the past few months point in the right direction, and have resulted in U.S. domestic production of“critical rare-earth mineral concentrates [having] increased by 8,000 metric tons (over 44%) in 2019 to 26,000 metric tons, making the U.S. the largest producer of rare-earth mineral concentrates outside of China,”according to USGS.

    However, it is important to note that all of the U.S.-produced rare earths concentrate was exported to China for separation into individual rare earth elements, since that portion of the supply chain doesn’t exist in the United States.

    Here’s hoping that policy makers well beyond the public health sector see the coronavirus as a the wake-up call that it is.

  • U.S.-Canadian Critical Minerals Collaboration Moves Into Next Round

    It’s official.

    On January 9, 2020, the governments of the United States and Canada formally announced the finalization of the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration to advance “our mutual interest in securing supply chains for the critical minerals needed for important manufacturing sectors, including communication technology, aerospace and defence, and clean technology.”

    During their meeting in June 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had resolved to collaborate to “ensure reliable supplies of rare earths and critical minerals.” The subsequently-created U.S.-Canada Critical Minerals Working Group tasked with developing the joint action plan had its first meeting in October, and finalized its work in December. 

    According to the official news release issued by the Canadian government, 

    “[t]he Action Plan will guide cooperation in areas such as industry engagement; efforts to secure critical minerals supply chains for strategic industries and defence; improving information sharing on mineral resources and potential; and cooperation in multilateral fora and with other countries. This Action Plan will promote joint initiatives, including research and development cooperation, supply chain modelling and increased support for industry.

    Experts from both countries will convene in the coming weeks to advance joint initiatives to address shared mineral security concerns — helping ensure the continued economic growth and national security of both Canada and the U.S.”

    The announcement ties into the overall context of the U.S. making strides towards embracing an “all-of-the-above” approach we’ve come to know from the energy policy discourse – in the context of working toward “resource independence,” a focus on new mining, recycling and reclamation of new minerals from old mine tailings and close partnerships with allies.  It could not come at a better point in time, because in spite of an ever-deepening partisan divide on many issues in Washington, D.C., the momentum for resource policy reform appears to be growing on both sides of the political aisle as recent official Congressional proceedings have shown.

    Our long-standing over-reliance on mineral resource supplies from countries like China has — often unnecessarily — given our adversaries significant leverage over our national security.  

    In 2020, we expect policy stakeholders to continue to advance international critical minerals collaboration as part of an overall push to reduce this leverage, and we’ll be keeping tabs on these efforts on our blog. 

  • Tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 10 – U.S. House Committee to Hold Hearing on “Research and Innovation to Address the Critical Materials Challenge”

    On Tuesday, December 10 — close to the two-year anniversary of the White House’s executive order “to develop a federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals” the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on “Research and Innovation to Address the Critical Materials Challenge.” The hearing comes against the backdrop of increased [...]
  • India and the Tech Wars: Ripple Effects of the Confrontation over Who Will Dominate the 21st Century Tech Age

    While most of the headlines regarding the trade war between the United States and China — and, for ARPN followers, the underlying tech war over who which country will dominate the 21st Century Technology Age — focus on the main players in Washington, DC and Beijing, the ripple effects of this confrontation can be felt [...]
  • Canada and U.S. to Draft “Joint Action Plan” on Rare Earths / Critical Minerals

    After years of missed opportunities to prioritize mineral resource policy, the U.S. government is stepping up its efforts to secure critical mineral resource supply chains.   The latest case in point is the drafting of a “joint action plan” with our neighbors to the North to reduce reliance on Chinese supplies of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) — which, [...]
  • U.S. and Australia to Roll Out “Mutually Beneficial” Action Plan to Improve Security and Supply of Rare Earths

    Building on recent agency-level talks the United States and Australia have used the occasion of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s week long state visit to the United States to formally announce the forthcoming roll out of an “action plan” to counter Chinese dominance in the critical minerals sector, and specifically the Rare Earths sector. According to news [...]
  • As Tech War Deepens Over REEs, Australia Steps Up to the Plate

    As the trade war between China and the United States deepens, concern over access to Rare Earths and other critical minerals is spreading all over the world.  While the U.S. is taking steps aimed at increasing domestic REE supplies — most recently manifesting in the Trump Administration’s invocation of the 69-year-old Defense Production Act and [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member on Strategic Metals Supply Chain in an Era of De-Globalization

    The trade war between China and the U.S., tensions between Russia and the West, the green energy transition — today’s political, geopolitical and economic pressures have significant implications for resource development. In a new piece on his blog, ARPN expert panel member and president of President of House Mountain Partners, LLC Chris Berry discusses “[t]he Strategic [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: REE Extraction and Separation From Phosphoric Acid

    The tech war between China and the United States over who will dominate the 21st Century Technology Age is heating up. Earlier this week, China’s rare earth producers, who control the vast majority of global REE output, put out a statement declaring they are ready to “use their dominance of the industry as a weapon in [...]
  • China’s Leverage: Supply Monopoly Shapes U.S. Policy

    In case you were wondering to what extent foreign powers are shaping domestic policy, the UK’s daily The Telegraph has a great overview piece on how “China’s supply of rare minerals, used in products like the iPhone, is causing a headache for Washington.” Using one of the most popular telecommunications gadgets – the iPhone – [...]