American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Food for thought for world leaders discussing climate change

    This week, world leaders are gathering in Paris to push for an agreement on climate change, which could spell the end of the fossil era, and ring in the age of post-carbon technology.  In a recent piece for the New York Times, David S. Abraham points to an important, yet oft-ignored paradox:

    “(…) even as our leaders are pushing us to use fewer resources, their vision will force us to use more.

    Though energy from the sun and wind appears boundless, the resources needed to turn it into power are not. And as we move away from oil, gas and coal, there is increasing demand for the rare metals that are at the heart of green technology.”

    As Abraham points out, this shift will have serious economic and environmental consequences, and expose us to potential supply disruptions unless we begin addressing the underlying issues associated with trading one resource dependency for another.

    Aside from geologic supply questions, the bigger problem lies in the fact that mineral exploration is a complex process fraught with many technological, environmental and regulatory hurdles. As a result, in the U.S., supply lines generally take 10 to 15 years to develop.

    Another issue spells trouble, according to Abraham:

    “Specialty metals are rarely mined for themselves. They are byproducts of more lucratively mined metals like copper. This means that even if prices of a rare metal were to skyrocket, companies often have little economic incentive to produce them if it means sacrificing some base metal production or investing in new processing equipment. If supplies cannot be produced in a timely way, these specialty metals will become more expensive, limiting their use.”

    Increased efficiency and substitution, often hailed as a silver bullet by some, can only be part of the solution, “as even if electric cars, for example, use 50 percent less rare metal per car, the increase in vehicles needed to meet green energy goals will lead to vast demand.”

    World leaders would be well-advised to keep Abraham’s bottom line in mind as they work to forge their agreement this week:

    “Over a century ago, we jumped into fossil fuels without understanding the ramifications of their use. We would do well to realize the resource implications of our green ambitions and develop a resource plan with them in mind.”

  • European Union seeks close cooperation with Greenland to fulfill resource needs

    In an effort to secure access to critical metals and minerals for its industries, European Commission representatives Antonio Tajani (Vice President), and Andris Piebalgs (Commisisoner for Development Cooperation) have signed a letter of intent on cooperation with Greenland’s Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist.

    The June 13 letter of intent covers cooperation in the areas of joint infrastructure development and investment, as well as capacity building in the exploration and development of mineral materials, according to a European Commission news release, which also points out that:

    •58 % of exploration companies currently operating in Greenland are Canadian or Australian, and only 15% are European companies.

    •These companies at present only have very limited involvement in on-going exploration activities and own only a few exploration licenses.

    •With industries within the European Union highly dependent on imported raw materials, and Greenland’s vast mineral riches (iron, zinc, niobium, tantalum, rare earths, rubies, and molybdenum) and geostrategic position, Greenland is an important “strategic partner in the long term.”

    Having identified a list of 14 metals and minerals as critical raw materials based on several risk factors in its “Raw Materials Strategy” from 2010, the European Commission is hopeful that closer cooperation with Greenland will be beneficial in particular as Greenland has “an especially strong potential in six of the fourteen critical raw materials identified by the European Commission (niobium, platinum group metals, rare earths and tantalum).”

    While other global players are already implementing their overhauled mineral strategies reflecting new geopolitical realities, the U.S. has yet to formulate its own strategy. Unfortunately, as the new American Resources Critical Metals report points out, U.S. government agencies can’t even agree on a definition of what constitutes a critical mineral – which does not bode well for a strategic overhaul that is long overdue.

  • Miners pull out of Argentina over populist measures

    A cautionary tale comes to us from Argentina, where major resource companies are increasingly shying away from investments in light of growing populism on the part of the Argentinian government. The latest company to pull out of the country is Cameco Corp, a major Uranium producer, announcing the end to a joint-venture exploration project with [...]
  • With China taking the lead, global resource race heats up in Africa

    A lengthy piece in the Asia Times online edition discusses China’s ever-increasing footprint in Africa, arguing that this manifestation of China replacing the West as the “dominant economic and political force in Africa epitomizes the most dramatic shift in geopolitics since the collapse of the Soviet Union.” In its global quest for mineral resources, China [...]
  • Canadian paper warns of new Cold War over arctic riches

    Working to implement a “strategy to reverse years of neglect and decline in its Far North,” Russia appears ready to re-embrace a Cold War, according to a detailed story in the Toronto Star.  Home to vast mineral resources including oil, zinc, and gold, for example, the Arctic is viewed by Russia as its strategic future, [...]
  • Demand for critical mineral lithium likely to increase thanks to new technology

    Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a technology for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that allows them to hold a charge ten times longer than current batteries, and charge ten times faster, according to R&D Magazine.  Going forward, the engineers are looking to develop a new safety mechanism for lithium-ion batteries prompting them to automatically and reversibly [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • China’s Rare Earths attract Japanese Manufacturer

    In this story hitting the East Asia news wires, Showa Denko, a leading Japanese metals fabricator, announced it will be moving its Rare Earths manufacturing facility to China. This is an alarm bell for anyone who believes the U.S. must stake a leadership claim in the green-tech sector. Coupled with decreased Chinese exports, access to [...]
  • China’s “prospecting” focus broadens to Latin America

    Friends of the American Resource Policy Network are aware that, in an effort to secure access to the continent’s natural resources, China’s state-backed mining companies have been investing heavily in Africa (Chinese foreign direct investment in Zambia, for example, has grown by 1,000% since 2001.) According to the Associated Press, China is now expanding its [...]
  • Mozambique find underscores geopolitics of global race for resources

    According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Globe Metals and Mining has discovered significant rare earths deposits at its exploration site Mount Muambe in Mozambique. This positive exploration result will likely further strengthen China’s quasi-monopoly position when it comes to rare earths, as the Chinese state-owned East China Minerals Exploration and Development Bureau only two months [...]