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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Rhenium: “Alien Technology” Underscores Importance of Gateway Metals and Co-Products

    At ARPN, we have consistently highlighted the importance of Gateway Metals, which are materials that are not only critical to manufacturing and national security in their own right, but also “unlock” tech metals increasingly important to innovation and technological development. With advancements in materials science, these co-products, many of which have unique properties lending themselves to new applications, are quickly becoming building blocks of 21st Century technologies.

    Rhenium – a Copper co-product – is a case in point; which is why the BBC has made it the subject of a short yet informative clip as part of its “Secrets of the Super Elements” series. Likening Rhenium’s stand-out properties to “alien technology,” the clip provides a great visual explanation of Rhenium’s heat resistance, which has made it an indispensable component for superalloys used in turbine blades for jet aircraft engines.

    Watch the clip here:

    In other words – which the BBC notes elsewhere:

    “[t]he ability of superalloys to operate at such extreme temperatures is what makes your holiday to the Algarve or Florida affordable.”

    Meanwhile, primarily derived as a co-Product of Copper mining, Rhenium is extremely rare, with an average abundance of less than one part per billion in the continental crust.

    USGS pegs global Rhenium production at a total of merely 47 metric tons, with more than 80 percent of that amount going into superalloys.

    To address supply concerns, users are turning to recycling and substitution, however neither represents a panacea, as a piece in the Economist outlined several years ago:

    “General Electric, one of the world’s biggest makers of jet engines, has spent years developing nickel-based superalloys to replace rhenium. But the best GE’s boffins could manage was to reduce the amount of metal required, not eliminate it altogether. Moreover, few manufacturers possess the resources to achieve even such limited progress.”

    What does that mean for domestic use and production? According to revised USGS numbers, U.S. import reliance for Rhenium is at 81 percent. As we previously pointed out:

    “Because the recovery process is complicated and requires special facilities, we are unlikely to fully meet our demand with domestic resources. However, a strong demand for Rhenium is likely here to stay. That, coupled with the fact that we have proven Rhenium reserves in the U.S. (the development of one of which has been projected to generate more than 20 tons of Rhenium per year as a Copper Co-Product, thus significantly reducing our reliance on foreign imports), should suffice to get policy makers’ attention (…).”

    The bottom line: We need to rethink the way we look at some of our old-school mainstay metals, and give the ones that serve as gateway metals – in Rhenium’s case Copper – more thorough consideration. After all, they hold the key to unlocking those “alien technology” “super elements” that keep us safe, afford us everyday convenience, and keep us competitive from an economic perspective.

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  • EPA Settlement on Pebble Deposit Positive Development for Due Process Advocates

    A few years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a splash when it took unprecedented early action in an effort to derail the development of one of the largest domestic deposits of key strategic mineral resources (Copper, Molybdenum, Gold, Silver and Rhenium) – the so-called Pebble Deposit in Southwestern Alaska.  In spite of the fact that no permit application or specific plans had been submitted, the agency released a cursory review of the Bristol Bay Watershed in Alaska which sounded the alarm on the possible impact of hypothetical mining – even though previous EPA assertions of such preemptive power had been rebuffed in federal court.

    The EPA’s decision to preemptively veto the project before any application had been filed represented a unilateral expansion of EPA powers under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

    Now, in a course reversal and big victory for due process advocates, the EPA under its new administrator Scott Pruitt and Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals has settled the long-standing dispute, which had culminated in 2014 with a lawsuit over the EPA’s decision to block development of the Pebble Deposit.

    ARPN followers may recall that ARPN consistently argued in favor of due process and warned against effectively allowing the EPA to grant itself ultimate authority to derail any project in the United States that touches on water — with potential impact for projects in every sector of the US economy, from mining to farming, manufacturing, building, energy, and water treatment.

    Announced earlier this month, the settlement now reached affords the Pebble Limited Partnership the opportunity to apply for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act, after which point the EPA could move forward with its Clean Water Act process to “specify limits on the disposal of certain material in connection with the potential “Pebble Mine.”

    Says EPA Chief Pruitt: 

    “We are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are ‘regular.’ We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides. The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation. We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.”

    Whether or not the deposit will ultimately be developed remains to be seen. However, with rigorous environmental review standards and processes already in place, it is encouraging to see that the EPA is returning to merit-based evaluation of actual projects within the given legal and regulatory framework, rather than relying on vague hypotheticals to derail potential mining projects before they even present a mining plan for formal review.

    And while the settlement stands as a win for due process, friends of ARPN will appreciate the bittersweet aspect of a “victory” that ran six years off the clock on the Pebble project, allowing the project to do in 2017 what it had hoped to do in 2011.  During that time, U.S. dependency has deepened for some of the very metals and minerals Pebble might bring to market.  And for the company that optioned the Pebble deposit in 2001, after 16 years, they’ve arrived at the permitting starting line.

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  • As Resource Dependence Deepens, Miners Pivot Back to U.S. For Exploration

    Against the backdrop of market prices recovering and supply woes looming, mining companies are expected to increase spending on exploration for the first time in five years, reports news agency Reuters. In what may spell good news for the United States, analysts anticipate the biggest expenditure increases to occur in the United States, Canada and Australia, all [...]
  • McGroarty on Critical Minerals: “It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Infrastructure”

    The New Year is now a little over a week old and the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States is just around the corner.  And while some are still dwelling on 2016 (we offered our post mortem at the end of the year), the time has come to look at what’s in store. One of [...]
  • Through The Gateway: A Look at Gateway Metals, Co-Products and the Foundations of American Technology

    The following is an overview of our “Through the Gateway” informational campaign, in which we outline the importance of Gateway Metals and their Co-Products. Here, we expand on the findings of our “Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology” report, in which we focused on a group of five “Gateway Metals,” which are not only critical to manufacturing and [...]
  • Through The Gateway – We Have the Reserves, So Why Aren’t We A Copper Net Exporter?

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken you on a journey “Through the Gateway.” We have looked at some of the key properties and supply and demand picture for Copper, as well as Copper’s co-products Tellurium, Selenium, Rhenium and Molybdenum.* It has become abundantly clear that Copper is a critical mineral, not just as a stand-alone traditional mainstay metal, but also as a gateway to the (mostly) rare tech metals it [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Rhenium – Rare and Sexy?

    It has helped make airline travel affordable. It helps keep us safe. And it may just be sexier than Salma Hayek – at least in the eyes of one observer.  We’re talking about Rhenium, yet another metal brought to us largely courtesy of Copper refinement.  A silvery white, metallic element, Rhenium, according to USGS, has “an extremely high [...]
  • “A case study in critical metals inaction” – ARPN’s McGroarty on Rhenium

    In a new piece for Investor Intel, our very own Dan McGroarty sounds the alarm on a little-noticed but troubling passage in the U.S. House-passed Defense Authorization Act for 2014.  Said section in Title III acknowledges the importance of Tungsten and Molybdenum powders, including Tungsten Rhenium (WRe) wire to a variety of Department of Defense [...]
  • Critical metals take center stage in border dispute: The Kuril Islands and Rhenium

    According to a recent article in the Russian daily Pravda, Russia finds itself locked in a territorial dispute that is becoming increasingly acute. The conflict over the group of four islands, which Russia calls the “Southern Kurils” and Japan calls the “Northern Territories, is the reason why Japan and Russia never signed a peace treaty [...]
  • Happy Rhenium Month!

    In light of the recently announced investment deal between Molymet of Chile and U.S. Rare Earths miner Molycorp, which has significant strategic implications outlined by our very own Daniel McGroarty this weekend, it is only fitting that American Resources continues our ongoing educational campaign to highlight the breadth of U.S. mineral needs by designating “rhenium” [...]

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