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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
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  • Greenland at the Heart of Resource Race in 21st Century Tech War

    While a deal is not likely to happen, and some question whether the comment was more quip than opening offer, President Trump’s recent interest in buying Greenland from Denmark has done one thing: bring Greenland and the Arctic into focus.   The President’s suggestion has been ridiculed by many, but from a strategic perspective — unlikely as it may be to see a “For Sale” sign planted on the Greenland coast — Greenland’s resource value is significant.

    Unbeknownst to many because outside the media limelight, the Arctic has been one of the sites of looming battles and territorial disputes in the resource war theater, with both China and Russia having stepped up their activities in (and relating to) the Arctic circle region in recent years.  The U.S. is beginning to realize the significance of the region and the need for more active engagement. 

    As Mark Rosen writes for the National Interest, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s open Challenge of Chinese and Russian Arctic intentions at the May 2019 Arctic Council Meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland “marked a dramatic rhetorical shift in the usual diplomatic line that the United States regarded the Arctic as a venue for cooperation and research and that climate change is the clear and present danger to Arctic security. Climate change unquestionably is altering the Arctic landscape and will have long term effects. However, Pompeo’s statement was a significant expansion of the warning by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the United States is ‘late to the game’ in the Arctic and needs to start making policy, security, and economic investments in the Arctic or be left on the sidelines.”

    China, with no territorial presence in the Arctic, obtained observer status to the Arctic Council in 2013, and has since included the Arctic into its “new Silk Road Strategy,”with increased diplomacy and investment in the region. China has also participated in various governance and rule-making processes for ship operation and fishing in the region outside the umbrella of the Arctic Council.  And while China’s launch of its first domestically built polar ice breaker — Snow Dragon 2 was delivered earlier last month — was framed as enabling “scientific research into polar ice coverage, environmental conditions and biological resources,” observers have pointed out that the icebreakers are also “useful in testing the feasibility of moving cargo across the Arctic,” as “China’s plans for a Polar Silk Road, as part of its ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, include developing Arctic shipping routes.

    And then there’s Russia.  As David Carlin observes for Forbes, “[m]any nations have recognized the potential of the Arctic, but few have proceeded as boldly as Russia. The Russian economy derives nearly 20% of its GDP from activities in the Arctic. Russia has defended this investment by increasing its military commitments. Old Soviet Arctic bases are being upgraded and reequipped by Russian forces.” 

    Against the backdrop of increasing tension between Russia and the West, and the United States and China, the Arctic’s strategic relevance is increasing, and Greenland — where vast veins of ores and minerals ranging from Rare Earths, Niobium, Tungsten and Antimony to Chromium, Platinum Group Metals, Graphite and Cobalt have been found (in other words, roughly one-quarter of the U.S. Critical Minerals List) — factors big into countries’ decisions to engage in the Arctic.  

    The resource race in the Arctic is a manifestation of the tech war over who will dominate the 21st Century Technology Age.   Regardless of whether or not a Greenland deal is a realistic scenario, what is important here is that U.S. stakeholders are beginning to realize the need to assertively stake the United States’ claim in the Arctic and near-Arctic environs.  The other players — those with Arctic territory, and others, like China, with Arctic interests — have made it clear that they will not wait for us.

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  • 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 – as a case in point to underscore our reliance on foreign mineral resources in general, and specifically the rare earths, The Telegraph goes on to outline the challenges associated with this dependence, which China appears all too willing to exploit, according to recent news reports.

    Write Matthew Field and James Titcomb:

    “China’s apparent willingness to use these metals as a bargaining tool in negotiations has forced the US to explore the possibility of home-grown production.

    (…)

    While it is not clear whether China would follow up on its threat to rare earth supplies, their dominance gives them clear leverage.

    “By controlling the rare earth industry, the Chinese have a strategic advantage in trillions of dollars of downstream industrial value,” Litinsky says.

    The Pentagon has called for responses from miners by the end of the month on how to boost production in the US.

    The Telegraph understands miners have been in crunch meetings in Washington DC as officials assess the challenge ahead.

    For companies like Apple, this dependence has serious consequences they say:

    “While companies like Apple may only use tiny amounts of rare earths in its smartphones, their exposure to a sudden shut down of supply could still have a serious impact, according to analysts. Goldman Sachs told clients that as iPhone production ramps up over the summer, ahead of the next iPhone in September, ‘even a short term action affecting production could have longer term consequences’.

    Apple has publicly said it wants to wean itself off volatile supplies of rare earth mines, but it has proved a challenge. The company has designed a recycling robot, dubbed Daisy, that can strip apart 200 iPhones an hour for recyclable parts.

    But while it is able to isolate the components with rare earth metals, actually recovering the small quantities themselves has proved more challenging. Earlier this year, the company announced a research lab in Texas, aimed at discovering new recycling techniques that could improve reuse to products like rare metals.”

    However, recycling efforts notwithstanding, against the backdrop of the ongoing materials science revolution, the demand for ‘whizzy new features’ will continue to fuel demand for rare earths and other critical metals and minerals.

    When it comes to mineral resources, the only way to reduce foreign influence over U.S. domestic policy is to minimize — to the extent possible — our over-reliance on foreign metals and minerals. It appears the message is finally resonating. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) American Mineral Security Act, for example, passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this month.

    Here’s hoping policy makers don’t let the momentum for comprehensive reform fizzle. Too much is at stake.

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  • China’s Grand Strategy to Exploit United States’ “Soft Underbelly” Goes Beyond Rare Earths

    Much is being made of China’s recent threats to cut off Rare Earth exports to the United States, and the issue has – finally – helped bring the issue of mineral resource policy reform to the forefront.  However, as Ian Easton, research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and author of The Chinese Invasion Threat, [...]
  • Happy 4th of July! The Road to Resource Independence

    Another trip around the sun, and once again we find ourselves stocking up for barbecues, fireworks and parades in honor of the men and women who have fought on our behalf, and continue our safeguard our freedom today. We’ve always used the occasion of Independence Day to remind ourselves that “while we cherish the freedom we [...]
  • Resource Alert:  North of 60 Mining News Has Launched “Critical Minerals Alaska” Magazine and Dedicated Webpage

    Over the past few weeks, China’s threat to play the “rare earths card” has generated quite a buzz and, along with growing concerns over supply chains for battery tech, has directed much-needed attention to our nation’s over-reliance on foreign mineral resources.  As followers of ARPN know, many of these issues are in fact home-grown, as the United [...]
  • CBS’s 60 Minutes Airs Updated Rare Earths Segment Featuring ARPN’s McGroarty

    Bearing testimony to the significance of the looming specter of China playing the “rare earths card,” CBS’s 60 Minutes this weekend aired an update to its 2015 segment on rare earths featuring ARPN principal Dan McGroarty.  You can watch the segment on the CBS website, which also features a written transcript. There is hope that the [...]
  • 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. [...]
  • Lawmakers Introduce New Legislation Aimed at Changing United States’ “Bystander” Status in Race for Critical Minerals

    As pressures mount for the United States to bolster its position as a non-fuel mineral raw materials producer amidst the ongoing battery tech revolution, a group of U.S. Senators have introduced legislation to boost domestic production of critical minerals. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and [...]
  • Sustainably Greening the Future: Mining’s Growing Role in the Low-Carbon Transition

    At ARPN, we’ve long made the case that the current push towards a lower-carbon future is not possible without mining, as green energy technology relies heavily on a score of critical metals and minerals. In 2017, the World Bank World Bank published “The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future”, which echoed [...]
  • “Something Does not Come from Nothing” – Formulation of Mineral Resource Strategy Should be a Precursor to Green Energy Debate

    “Something does not come from nothing. That fact can be easily forgotten when it comes to seemingly abstract concepts like ‘energy,’” writes Angela Chen in a new piece for technology news and media network The Verge. Chen zeroes in on four key metals and minerals that have become indispensable components of green energy technology – Neodymium, [...]

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