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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
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  • An Early Christmas Present? New Executive Order Calls for National Strategy to Increase Domestic Resource Development

    Only one day after USGS released its new report “Critical Minerals of the United States” – a study which underscores the United States’ over-reliance on foreign minerals – a new executive order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to publish within 60 days a list of critical minerals to be followed by a report (after another 120 days) outlining:

    (i)    a strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on critical minerals;

    (ii)   an assessment of progress toward developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies, and technological alternatives to critical minerals;

    (iii)  options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners;

    (iv)   a plan to improve the topographic, geologic, and geophysical mapping of the United States and make the resulting data and metadata electronically accessible, to the extent permitted by law and subject to appropriate limitations for purposes of privacy and security, to support private sector mineral exploration of critical minerals; and

    (v)    recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes related to developing leases; enhancing access to critical mineral resources; and increasing discovery, production, and domestic refining of critical minerals.

    The order caps off a year in which we have seen several relevant, but, in the grand scheme of things, small positive developments in various mineral resource policy areas, all of which we considered progress. However they still lacked a clear overarching strategic vision. Once implemented, the order could help change that.

    Said ARPN principal Dan McGroarty:

    “The Executive Order is a welcome sign that the U.S. Government is ready to take a strategic approach on the issue of critical metals and minerals, and the dangers of our deep dependency on foreign-sourced supply.

    We’ve had years of studies ringing alarm bells in the night, and [this week’s] USGS report drives home the point:  It is time to establish a list of strategic and critical minerals based on their importance to the national economy and national security – and develop a comprehensive federal action plan to encourage domestic resource production, through mining, recycling and reclamation.”

    The USGS list of 23 critical minerals released earlier this week as part of the agency’s Professional Paper 1802, which effectively updates a 1973 landmark report, contains several materials ARPN has frequently as part of our informational campaign to highlight the importance of “Co-Product Metals and Minerals” –  i.e. materials that are generally not mined as stand-alone metals but are mostly “unlocked” in the refining process of their “Gateway Metals.”

    As the Department of the Interior, along with other agencies develops its resource strategy, it would be well advised to incorporate ways to harness the interrelationship between Gateway Metals – which include mainstay metals like Copper, Aluminum, Nickel, Tin and Zinc  – and their Co-Products, many of which are increasingly becoming the building blocks of 21st Century technology.

    With the executive order, supported by several other positive developments we outlined here, the stage is set for meaningful mineral resource policy reform.

    Here’s hoping the momentum that has been building carries over into 2018. Our national security and economic wellbeing depends on it.

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  • Panelists at U.S. House Hearing Stress Dangers of America’s Growing Resource Dependence

    During yesterday’s oversight hearing on the subject of “Examining Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Minerals,” before the House Natural Resources Committee, panelists raised some of the key issues we have consistently highlighted on our blog.

    Panelists included:

    • Mr. Ronnie Favors, Administrator, U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, Strategic Materials, U.S. Department of Defense
    • Dr. Murray Hitzman, Associate Director for Energy and Minerals, United States Geological Survey
    • Dr. Richard Silberglitt, Senior Physical Scientist, Rand Corporation
    • Ms. Katie Sweeney, Senior VP, Legal Affairs and General Counsel, National Mining Association
    • and Ms. Carlotta Tilousi, Council Member, Havasupai Tribe, Sepia, Arizona

    Full written testimony along with the video of the hearing are available on the committee website, but we wanted to highlight some of the points raised by one of the panelists, Dr. Silberglitt.

    Invoking the example of Tungsten, and the findings of a “RAND Corporation Study entitled Critical Materials: Present Danger to U.S. Manufacturing,” Dr. Silberglitt argued that

    “Dependence on imports is not necessarily a problem, as long as manufacturers have access to a global supply chain with fair market prices. Concerns arise when supply chains are dominated by countries that have weak governance or exercise control over their materials production sector. In such cases, U.S. manufacturers are vulnerable to export restrictions that limit their access. This can result in lower prices for manufacturers in the producing country, thereby hindering the international competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and creating pressure to move manufacturing away from the United States and into the producing country.”

    The elephant in the room, according to Silberglitt, is – you probably guessed it – China, which as ARPN followers know is the biggest producer of global supplies for many metals and minerals we are dependent on — and is no stranger to export restrictions and other market distortion tools.

    According to Silberglitt,

    “Actions to increase resiliency can take two different forms: those that encourage diversified production and processing of critical materials and those that involve the development of alternative sources, such as secondary production or alternative inputs to manufacturing.”  

    Silberglitt said progress was being made in the former, but maintained that “the uncertainty created by a highly concentrated market is a barrier that must be overcome by actions at the local, national, regional and global levels to create a favorable and sustainable climate for the investments and time needed to bring diversified supplies into place.”

    Later in the hearing, the National Mining Association’s Katie Sweeney made the case for a merit-based review of federal land withdrawals, and stressed the issue of an onerous and duplicative permitting system hampering the United States’ ability to compete with jurisdictions like Canada and Australia – both of whom have equally high social and environmental standards when it comes to mining yet offer a significantly more streamlined permitting structure.

    Towards the end of the Q&A, Chairman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) entered into the record a study recently authored by the latest member of the ARPN expert panel – Dr. Ned Mamula’s “Strategic Minerals: The Embarrassment of Riches.” Most panelists agreed with the thrust of his report that the United States, which has vast mineral resources beneath our own soil, could and should do more to harness this potential.

    With a Senate hearing on the permitting processes at the Department of the Interior and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for energy and resource infrastructure projects also held yesterday, this week is a good week for mineral resource policy awareness on Capitol Hill. Here’s hoping policy makers mull over what they heard during the holidays and begin tackling the issues at hand in the new year.

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  • House Committee to Hold Hearing on Growing Resource Dependence on Tuesday

    On Tuesday of this week, the U.S. House Committee on Mineral Resources will be holding an oversight hearing on “Examining Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Minerals.” Witnesses at the hearing, which will begin at 2pm EST, include: Mr. Ronnie Favors, Administrator, U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, Strategic Materials, U.S. Department of Defense Dr. Murray [...]
  • “Materials Science Profiles of Progress” – REE Extraction From Coal

    In the fairy tale realm, Rumpelstilskin was able to turn straw into gold. Meanwhile, in the real world, as part of our feature series “Materials Science Profiles of Progress,” we’re taking a closer look at a recently-announced research partnership that may not be able to turn straw into gold, but promises to extract precious Rare [...]
  • Ned Mamula Joins American Resources Panel of Issue Experts

    We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Ned Mamula, a senior geoscientist with over 30 years of experience in energy and mineral research and resource policy issues, has joined the ARPN Panel of Issue Experts. Currently a scholar with the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, Mr. Mamula has spearheaded resource [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • “Time to Start Digging, America”

    In a recent piece for The Hill, William Murray, federal energy policy manager, and Ned Mamula, associate fellow for the Washington, D.C.-based R Street Institute, lament that while policy makers and stakeholders are increasingly focusing on energy security issues, leaders are failing to pay “the same attention to a national security risk at least as [...]
  • National Mining Association Urges Focus on Deterioration of Domestic Metal and Mineral Supply Chains

    In a detailed letter to Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. John G. “Jerry” McGinn, Katie Sweeney, General Counsel of the National Mining Association, urges the Department of Defense to “acknowledge the importance of domestic metals and minerals to meet our defense needs” as the agency moves forward to implement Executive Order 13806, “Assessing [...]
  • New Report Zeroes in on Geopolitics of Renewable Energy 

    While the geopolitics of fossil fuels are well established, we at ARPN have long lamented the lack of awareness regarding the geopolitical implications of non-fuel mineral resource supply and demand. For that reason, we were very pleased to see a recently released study co-authored by Meghan L. O’Sullivan of Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Indra Overland [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for Investor’s Business Daily: U.S. Mineral Resource Dependence a “Clear and Present Danger”

    Against the backdrop of growing threats to U.S. security – recent flash points involve Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – a new Presidential Executive Order “On Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States,” zeroes in on defense readiness. The E.O. requires heads from various [...]

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