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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Gold Leapfrogged by “Obscure and Far Less Sexy” Metal – A Look at Palladium

    Valuable and precious, Gold, for example in jewelry, is a popular go-to for gifts during the holidays.  Who knew that gold’s luster would be dimmed by a metal that “scrubs your exhaust,” as the New York Times phrased it?  It may still not end up under many Christmas trees, but Palladium, an “obscure and far less sexy rival” metal for the first time in sixteen years leapfrogged gold in metal market prices last week, hitting a record high last Wednesday.

    Writes the New York Times:

    “It is an impressive dethroning aided by economic shifts, antipollution legislation, union campaigns by mine workers and global trade negotiations. Until recently, palladium was perhaps best known for sharing a name with several popular entertainment venues and for powering the fictional arc reactor mechanism hooked up to Iron Man’s heart.

    Its primary purpose is far less glamorous: More than 80 percent of the world’s palladium is used in the catalytic converters that help vehicles manage their pollutant output.”

    Usage in passenger cars – in response to regulatory efforts to reduce tailpipe emissions — has been one of the key drivers of Palladium demand, and while analysts expect a record high demand this year, softening car sales and other factors may dampen demand going forward.   However, considering Palladium is largely a “co-product” metal recovered via Platinum mining in South Africa and Nickel mining in Russia, it is considered extremely rare, which has tightened supply and driven up prices.

    U.S. import dependence for the metal is pegged at 45 percent, with our lead suppliers being South Africa, accounting for 30% and Russia accounting for  25% in 2017. According to USGS, the sole domestic PGM-mining company — at one point owned by Russian investors — was sold to a South Africa-based mining company in May 2017. 

    Not surprisingly in light of current market developments, Russia – arguably not one of the U.S.’s best trading partners – is looking to step up Palladium production in the coming months.

    Thankfully, as part of the Platinum Group Metals, which was included in DOI’s Critical Minerals list earlier this year, Palladium is on the United States’ government radar.  However, we have yet to see comprehensive action to follow the release of the critical minerals list.  With our competitors – led by China and Russia – not sitting idly by in the global resource race, we cannot afford to get complacent, and must implement policies conducive to harnessing our own domestic resource potential.  As we previously argued:

    The case of Palladium should be another catalyst (pun intended) for policy makers to formulate policies conducive to domestic mineral resource development.

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  • While Some Reforms Fizzled, Enacted NDAA Contains Potentially Precedent-Setting REE Sourcing Provision

    As we have noted, the recently-signed John S. McCain (may he rest in peace) National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), stands as a missed opportunity to enact several meaningful mineral resource policy reforms.

    Nonetheless, one provision of the signed legislation marks an important development for the realm of resource policy – so important, in fact, that Jeffery A. Green, president and founder of J. A. Green & Company and member of the ARPN panel of experts calls it “the single biggest legislative development in the rare earth sector since the 2010 Chinese embargo created an awareness of our military’s reliance on foreign rare earth materials.”

    The NDAA’s Section 873, “Prohibition on acquisition of sensitive materials from non-allied foreign nations,” amends Subchapter V of chapter 148 of title 10, U.S. Code by inserting section 2533c – which, among other things, effectively prevents the Pentagon from sourcing of Rare Earth Magnets from China.

    In response to questions from InvestorIntel, Green provides some more context:

    “The new law which sets an increased budget for defense expenditure prevents the purchase of rare earth magnets from China, which currently produces 85-90% per cent of the world’s rare earth magnets. Some 90% of rare earths consumed by the US military are produced by China.

    The new law takes effect immediately, but practically speaking, it will take the DoD some time to implement the law through regulation and to start including the prohibition in new contracts.

    To be clear, this law only applies to the use of Chinese NdFeB (Neodymium, Iron, Boron) and SmCo (Samarium, Cobalt) magnets, the latter being already subject to a previous law requiring domestic sourcing.

    The new law, 10 U.S.C. 2533c, closely mirrors an existing domestic sourcing law, ‘the specialty metals clause’, at 10 U.S.C. 2533b.  While the latter is a Buy American clause, the former states DOD will not allow rare earth magnets and tungsten in weapon systems that is produced by potential adversaries.

    The law explicitly prohibits rare earth magnets and tungsten from being ‘melted or produced’ in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. That means the production of the magnet can’t be in those countries, so importers and distributors can’t simply bring magnet block into another country and finish into a final part – the law is designed to reinvigorate rare earth magnet manufacturing outside of China.”

    As Green had previously stated in a piece for Real Clear Defense as the bill was being considered by lawmakers:

    “While a good first step, and one long overdue, Sec. 873 addresses just a small percentage of America’s import dependence for essential military components. In next year’s NDAA, Congress should consider expanding this provision, with input from the technical experts at the Department of Defense, to include other critical minerals essential to national security.”

    With the precedent-setting passage of the amendment, the groundwork has been laid for this to actually happen. Writes Green:

    “The DOD may ask in the near future for new materials to be added to 10 U.S.C. 2533c, so there’s a good chance that this precedent continues as the Trump Administration seeks to eliminate the strategic vulnerability of foreign import reliance for critical materials – this bodes well for prospective producers outside China and Russia.”

    Read the full InvestorIntel piece here.

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  • Green: Over-reliance on Foreign Mineral Imports “Fiscally Foolish and Politically Dangerous”

    In a new piece for The Hill, member of the ARPN expert panel and president and founder of Washington, DC-based government relations firm J.A.Green & Company Jeff A. Green stresses the national security risks associated with our over-reliance on foreign sources of supply for key mineral resources. Citing FBI Director Christopher Wray, who recently told [...]
  • The Arctic – A Looming Battlefield for Resource Supremacy?

    While relations between Russia and the United States continue to make headlines on a daily basis, one particular aspect of this relationship – in spite of the fact that it may be one of the most contentious ones – has been largely flying under the radar. As Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin recently wrote: [...]
  • Through the Gateway: The Geopolitics of Co-Product Supply – a Look at Scandium

    Throughout ARPN’s work, we have consistently highlighted the geopolitical dimension of mineral resource policy.  Where we source (or fail to source) our metals and minerals is an often forgotten – or ignored – factor, with implications for our domestic manufacturers, and, at times, even for our national security. Case in point – and in keeping [...]
  • Ukraine, Food Security, and Russia’s Imperial Reset

    American Resources readers will want to see what ARPN expert Chris Berry has to say about the potash sector in light of recent events in Ukraine. Now that Ukraine, formerly known as the “breadbasket of the Soviet Union,” has lost Crimea to the Russian Federation as Russian forces mass along its border, it’s time to [...]
  • Resource Wars: EU zeros in on Arctic mineral riches

    While many of us in the continental U.S. are enjoying record-breaking temperatures this March, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton probably needed her down coat as she embarked on her new mission: laying the groundwork for a common EU policy on the Arctic. Traveling near the North Pole earlier this month, Ashton made a case [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • A new dimension of Resource Wars – China throws hat into Arctic ring

    Having intensified over the past few months with Russia reportedly willing to risk a new “Cold War” over the area’s vast resources, the geopolitics of the Arctic’s race for mineral riches has just been elevated to a whole new level with China having thrown its hat into the ring. According to the Wall Street Journal’s [...]
  • Supply, Demand, and the March of Science

    Just when American Resources has read its thousandth story on companies substituting around scare metals like the Rare Earths to reduce usage, along comes this Platts report on a new discovery in Russia’s RUSAL research labs, working in conjunction with a team from the Siberian Federal University.  Scientists there have fabricated a new aluminum alloy [...]
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