American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Chinese Strategy and the Global Resource Wars – A Look at the Arctic 

    It’s the big elephant in the resource room – China.

    The recently-released 130-page long declassified version of the Defense Industrial Base Report mention the words “China” or “Chinese”  a “whopping 229 times” – for good reason.  As the Department of Defense argues in the report, “China’s domination of the rare earth element market illustrates the potentially dangerous interaction between Chinese economic aggression, guided by its strategic industrial policies and vulnerabilities and gaps in America’s manufacturing and defense industrial base.”

    From a materials point of view, the Rare Earths segment may still stand as the best illustration of Chinese hegemonic ambitions in the resource realm, though a look at Chinese attempts to jockey for pole position in the battery space is equally telling. (In both cases, however, friends of ARPN will appreciate that it’s easier to achieve hegemony when your competitor, as in the U.S.’s case, doesn’t prioritize resource production.)

    From a geographic perspective, the Arctic region has increasingly emerged as a central theater for Chinese resource war games. Having obtained observer status to the Arctic Council in 2013, China has stepped up its activity in (and relating to) the Arctic circle region in recent years. In 2017, a document released by the Chinese regime outlined the incorporation of the Arctic into its “new Silk Road Strategy,” with increased diplomacy and investment in the region, while a white paper released this January further emphasized the “importance of economic and scientific development in the Arctic strategy.” 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.

    Most recently, the Chinese government announced the launch of a new polar icebreaker, Snow Dragon 2.  While framed as “scientific research into polar ice coverage, environmental conditions and biological resources,” Harriet Moynihan, writing for Chatham House, says that “[i]t has not gone unnoticed, though, that China’s new icebreakers are also useful in testing the feasibility of moving cargo across the Arctic. 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.”

    Meanwhile, observers worry that recent U.S. disagreements with Greenland over Thule Air Base, located in the northwestern part of Greenland and home to the 821st Air Base Group, “could open the door for Beijing to swoop in and further realize its Arctic ambitions, according to Greenland media.” Against this backdrop, the growing realization on the part of U.S. stakeholders that the global race for the metals and minerals fueling 21st Century technology and our everyday lives is heating up – as evidenced by DoD’s Defense Industrial Base Report is not only welcome, it is necessary.

    As retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams wrote for The Hill last week, the “threat of China’s strategy isn’t new, but the results of China’s now decades-long planning and execution is,” and “shocking import dependence on minerals and metals [from China] is merely a microcosm of the problem.”The obvious answer to this growing challenge is a “comprehensive approach to U.S.competitiveness” and resource policy as a whole.  Here’s hoping that once we leave the dust settles after this week’s midterm Congressional elections, policy makers are able to focus on the necessary reforms.  As we’ve argued before — China will not wait for us to get our resource house in order.

  • A New Theater for the Global Resource Wars?  A Look at Antarctica

    At ARPN, we have long argued that we need comprehensive mineral resource policy reform.  One of the main reasons we have finally seen some momentum on this front is the growing realization that there is a global race for the metals and minerals fueling 21st Century technology and our everyday lives — something that our competitors, and among them primarily China, have long figured out.

    We have reported occasionally about events relating to the Arctic as a theater of the global resource wars — but it appears that a new front has opened up:

    According to a recent news story, New Zealand – recognizing an uptick in international interest in the region – is looking to bolster its footprint in Antarctica. Writes RT.com:

    “New Zealand is not typically considered a major colonial power, but the country’s recent defense policy statement revealed hidden aspirations of expansion in one geostrategic area in particular: Antarctica.”

    The referenced policy statement, which contains numerous references to New Zealand’s role in the region, provides a little more context on why the country is looking to step up its involvement:

    “Interest by both state and non-state actors in Antarctica and its surrounding waters will likely grow over the coming years. This will lead to increased congestion and crowding, as well as pressure on key elements of the Antarctic Treaty System, such as the prohibition on mineral extraction. States are planning and building new facilities. The planned Italian runway in Terra Nova Bay could support broader activities by a range of states interested in the region. China has begun work on its fifth base in Antarctica, on Inexpressible Island.  

    While an evolved treaty system is likely to remain the key framework for governing activities in Antarctica, difficulty in distinguishing between allowed and prohibited activities under the Antarctic treaty system could be exploited by states seeking to carry out a range of military and other security-related activities.”

    New Zealand indeed is neither a major colonial power, nor is it considered a mineral resource power house.  And unlike the Arctic, where the U.S. claim to the region comes via Alaska, we don’t have a direct claim in the Antarctic circle.   However, what matters here is context.  As the RT story goes on to explain, and as the policy statement indicates, China is once more the elephant in the room:

    “In August last year, a report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute warned that Australia’s leadership role was being eroded because of long-term under-investment at a time when other countries (read: China) were expanding their influence in the Pacific region. The report went on to warn that ‘China has conducted undeclared military activities in Antarctica, is building up a case for a territorial claim, and is engaging in minerals exploration there.’ According to the report, three out of four of China’s Antarctic bases and two of its field camps are in the Australian Antarctic Territory, further warning that China’s presence there is aimed at competing for resources, including minerals, hydrocarbons, fishing, tourism, transport routes, water and bioprospecting.

    The report stated that China’s military activities in Antarctica have the potential to shift the strategic balance that has maintained peace in the Asia-Pacific, as well as in Antarctica, for nearly 70 years.”

    With China continuing to jockey for a geopolitical pole position, here’s another good reason for U.S. policy makers to move forward with a comprehensive mineral resource policy overhaul.  And now, it seems the geopolitical resource map will need to extend to Antarctica.

  • Space Force Plans Raise the Stakes to Overhaul U.S. Mineral Resource Policy

    Last week, the U.S. Government outlined plans to establish a sixth military branch – the United States Space Force.   According to Vice President Mike Pence, who announced the plans during a speech at the Pentagon, the new force would be led by a four-star commander, and funding in the federal budget would begin for [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • America’s Critical Mineral Issues are Largely Home-Grown

    A recent commentary piece by Printus LeBlanc, contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government, draws attention to the home-grown nature of America’s critical mineral resource issues and their geo-political context. LeBlanc sets the stage using the example of a relatively unknown Chinese phone company becoming the focus of Congressional concern because the Administration was in [...]
  • USGS Scholars Provide Insights into Resource Interdependency and Conflict Potential in New Study

    The advances in materials science have been fundamentally transforming the way we look at metals and minerals – both from a usage, as well as a supply and demand perspective.  With that, the nature of potential resource conflict has also changed. As USGS National Minerals Information Center scholars Andrew L. Gulleya, Nedal T. Nassar,  and [...]
  • Africa Taking Center Stage in China’s Quest for Resources

    It is “the single largest source of mineral commodities for the United States, particularly for resources like rare earth elements, germanium, and industrial diamonds,” according to the United States Geological Survey, which notes in its most recent Mineral Commodity Summaries report that “of the 47 mineral commodities that the United States is more than 50 [...]
  • USGS Report Bellwether for National Security Crisis?

    For over two decades, the United States Geological Survey has released its Mineral Commodity Summaries report.  And while ARPN followers will know how important this publication is, as it provides a snapshot of our nation’s mineral resource dependencies, in most years its release has gone largely unnoticed beyond the circles of mineral resource wonks. This year, a [...]
  • Japan Pursuing Long-Term Critical Mineral Strategy in Kazakhstan

    In an effort to secure ongoing access to Rare Earths (REEs) for its domestic industries, Japan, which in geological terms does not have much of a resource profile, has entered into a series of cooperative agreements with Kazakhstan, a nation quickly ascending into the league of top REE suppliers in the world. The latest one [...]
  • The “Electronification of Everything” Raises Specter of “War Over the Periodic Table”

    Via our friend and ARPN expert Simon Moores’ Twitter feed, we came across a three-part must-read series for Bloomberg View, in which author and policy expert David S. Abraham discusses the role of rare earths in today’s increasingly high-tech world.   Perhaps most interestingly, Abraham clarifies a common misconception in part two of the series: “Although [...]