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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 national outlet has taken note – and it may be good timing, as our growing reliance on foreign mineral resources spell trouble.

    Earlier this month, John Moody, Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News, raised the specter of the President and his administration having to face the “very real possibility that China could cut off U.S. access to 17 rare materials vital to our advanced aircraft and guided missile systems,” as China has a near-total supply monopoly for Rare Earths.

    In a new piece for Fox News, Moody, citing the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries report, highlights the United States’ 100 percent import dependency for at least 20 metals and minerals, and the fact that China is the most common source for many of these and other metals and minerals listed in the USGS report. According to Moody, this is a serious threat to our future military security – a threat which albeit acknowledged, has so far largely been ignored.

    Moody quotes REE expert and mining industry veteran George Byers, who confirms:

    “That 2017 USGS report is not fake news, (…). You have 29 or 30 studies on critical materials, including rare earths that go back to the early ‘90s. The outcome of each study is to declare ‘we have a crisis, let’s do something about it.’ But all they do about it, is to ask for another study.”

    Pointing to a legislative effort to be spearheaded by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R, Calif.), which seeks to mandate that the U.S. military obtain Rare Earths sourced domestically – even if this would mean subsidizing those industries – Moody explains the underlying challenge:

    “The problem, these analysts note, is that U.S. production capacity in this area has been allowed to wither to almost nothing, due to plentiful supplies from China that can be produced at a lower price than U.S. made rare earths.

    Even more perilous, China’s own rapacious demand for rare earths is outstripping its ability to supply domestic consumers as well as the U.S., meaning it may be unable to ship goods to the U.S. even if it wants to.

     In addition to rare earths, which are vital components of high-grade permanent magnets used in military aircraft and missile systems, the United States, according to the USGS report, is now 100 percent reliant on foreign countries for supplies of manganese, which is used to make impact resistant steel, among other things. Though readily available in mines in Arizona, Arkansas and Minnesota, it can be imported more cheaply. The USGS study lists American production of manganese last year as: zero.”

    Indeed, Rare Earths – though of critical importance for our domestic manufacturers and our military, are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and with trade issues looming and the global race for mineral resources heating up, our failure to respond to these supply challenges may soon come to haunt us.  Perhaps more national exposure for these issues will help generate some much-needed momentum for the formulation of a comprehensive mineral strategy this year.

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  • 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 of these deals, struck by the Nipponese Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation’s (JOGMEC) in late October with local Kazakh authorities to jointly explore for rare earths in the Karaganda and Kostanay regions, solidifies Japan’s foothold in the resource-rich Central Asian nation.

    Policy makers in the U.S. – which is no stranger to import dependencies for critical mineral resources – should take note.  Commodity prices may have cooled in recent years, and manufacturers are increasingly looking to substitution and recycling, but these are no silver bullets to alleviate supply shortages, particularly as demand for tech minerals will likely continue to soar.

    Meanwhile, the global resource wars are continuing to heat up before our very own eyes.   Japan may have learned its lesson the hard way, when China cut off its REE exports to Japan in 2010. It is now approaching its mineral supply issues strategically, with a long-term vision in mind, and is not only looking to Kazakhstan, but has also signed a partnership agreement with India to explore stakes in deep-sea mining.

    Whether or not we may one day see OPEC-style coordination between China, Russia and Kazakhstan on global REE supply, as some fear, the United States, would be well-advised to join Japan in formulating a long-term critical mineral resource strategy – the stakes are too high, and the nature of mining and challenges associated with it are just not conducive to improvising policies on the fly.

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  • 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 [...]
  • The Geo-Politics of Rare Earths: China Reported to Add to Stockpile

    ARPN readers know that one of the core tenets of the Resource Wars thesis is that the market for strategic and critical metals is never immune to government interventions. Witness today’s Bloomberg report: “China Said to Add 10,000 Tons to Rare Earths Stockpiles.” Bloomberg reports: “China may stockpile more medium-to-heavy rare earths this year such [...]
  • Environmental NGO Takes on Mining Industry, Clean Water Act

    How do you break into the headlines these days – with Wall Street reeling, London burning, and carnage in the streets of Syria? A little hysteria helps. That’s the tactic employed by Earthworks, an environmental Non-Government Organization (NGO). The group has been running a national campaign this week aimed at pressuring the EPA to provide [...]
  • Resource Wars: India to challenge China with rare earths find in Madagascar?

    While a rare earths find on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has misleadingly been heralded as a solution to China’s near-total rare earths monopoly (to find out why this claim is misleading, click here), a second rare earths discovery earlier this month was barely noticed, in spite of its greater potential to challenge China: [...]
  • What makes it whirl? The commonalities of vacuums and geopolitics

    As you vacuum your house, you’re probably not thinking too much about the United States’ over-reliance on foreign mineral resources.  Here’s why maybe you should: Ever wonder what makes your Dyson DC 31 handheld vacuum cleaner whirl? You may be surprised to hear that the answer is rare earths. Five times faster than a racing [...]
  • Investors fear looming resource wars

    Arguing that China’s near-total rare earths monopoly is only the tip of the iceberg and an indicator of what’s to come, Michael A. Barry’s most recent edition of Morning Notes (a free subscription bulletin from DiscoveryInvesting), discusses “The Coming Resource Wars.” Barry quotes our very own Daniel McGroarty, who has said: But the Rare Earths [...]
  • Resource Wars: China and Brazil to Battle over Copper Deposits in Africa

    In what may become the most expensive diversified minerals takeover to-date, China and Brazil appear set to engage in a strategic battle over copper deposits in Africa, according to Bloomberg.  In line with China’s recent efforts to enlarge its footprint in Africa in its quest for natural resources, China’s Jinchuan Group is considering countering Rio de Janeiro-based Vale’s [...]

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