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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • With Asteroid Mining Likely Unattainable for the Time Being, U.S. Must Focus on Reducing Supply Chain Vulnerabilities – Here on Earth

    According to NASA, the Hubble Telescope earlier this month collected imagery of an asteroid “so rich in metals that its worth puts our global economy to shame.”

    Already discovered in 1852, the celestial body is located in the Solar System’s main asteroid belt, roughly 370 million km from Earth. The object, which has been called 16 Psyche, is composed almost entirely of nickel and iron. A planned NASA mission to study the asteroid’s properties is set to launch in August of 2021, with a planned arrival at the celestial body in 2026. As Mining.com notes a little tongue-in-cheek, “[i]f the mission could kindly bring the asteroid back to Earth, every person on the planet — all 7.8 billion of us — would get roughly $1.2 billion, based on current metal prices.”

    It’s a fascinating development, and harnessing the metal potential 16 Psyche would certainly take care of a looming nickel shortage some have been warning of — one of many mineral resource challenges we are facing and the extent of which has been brought to the forefront by the current coronavirus pandemic.

    However, at least at this point in time, all talk about and funding/legislation for asteroid mining aside — space mining is little more than pie in the sky thinking.

    Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring a critical minerals national emergency aimed at expanding terrestrial, i.e. U.S. domestic production of rare-earth and other critical minerals in an effort to reduce dependence on China. Among other things, the order directs the Department of the Interior to explore the application of the Defense Production Act — used earlier in the year to accelerate production of medical supplies in the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — to promote domestic resource production and development.

    In the context of the executive order, efforts to bring critical materials into the U.S. supply chain are currently underway. Here are a few examples, some of which draw on close cooperation with trusted allies Canada and Australia:

    • Only days after the executive order, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced the U.S. government’s taking of a $25 million equity stake in Dublin-based battery metals miner TechMet as part of the president’s push to reduce our nation’s over-reliance on supply chains dominated by China. The investment will help the company develop a nickel and cobalt mine in Brazil.
    • Later in October, the United States Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) awarded American Manganese (AMY) a grant to perform work on the United States Government’s manganese ore stockpile located near Wenden, Arizona, with the goal of producing electrolytic manganese metal (EMM), a form currently on the U.S. National Defense Stockpile purchase list.
    • In light of the closure of the last domestic titanium sponge plant in August, the U.S. is looking for a way to re-establish its titanium supply chain via Australian mining explorer Tao Commodities acquiring an option on a titanium and zircon project in Tennessee. The project site is only minutes away from one of the world’s largest titanium-consuming pigment plants. The owner of said facility, U.S.-based Chemours, has also opened a new facility in Georgia which will produce titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment, as well as zircon.
    • And moving from titanium to equally critical co-products, an example of reducing vulnerabilities at the processing level of the supply chain comes to us via our allies to the North, where global miner Rio Tinto has developed a way to extract scandium from waste tailings in the titanium dioxide production process in one of its production facilities in Quebec, Canada.

    Perhaps unlike any other event in recent history, the coronavirus pandemic has put a magnifying glass over the United States’ supply chain vulnerabilities in the context of a globalized world.

    The fate of the most recent executive order on critical minerals hangs in the balance in the wake of the Presidential election — an incoming Biden Administration may alter or rescind the executive order altogether, and we may see some policy shifts.

    However, in the grand scheme of things, with the order being a direct response to our increasingly obvious over-reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) critical minerals, and China’s penchant for playing politics when holding leverage over its adversaries, the push to reduce our mineral resource vulnerabilities will continue, irrespective of who will occupy the White House — and we at ARPN will be here to keep track.

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  • U.S. Senator and AK Governor for The Hill: With China Having Taken Control of Critical Mineral Supply Chains, We Need to Act Now

    Beijing’s threat to withhold potentially life-saving medical supplies and medications in the middle of a global pandemic, during which China has “taken control of [respective] supply chains around the world as part of its quest for global domination,” were a wake up call, write U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) in an op-ed for The Hill. Medical supplies and medications, however, they say, “aren’t the only products the Chinese control that the United States depends on.” With China having effectively consolidated the global supply chain for critical minerals, including rare earth elements, we are now faced with the gargantuan task of “jumpstarting an industry that barely exists.”

    Thankfully, as Sen. Cruz and Gov. Dunleavy point out, the Trump administration began taking steps towards prioritizing critical mineral resource policy and re-shoring these supply chains in 2017, and has stepped up its efforts once more with the signing of a new presidential executive order declaring a critical minerals national emergency at the end of September of this year.

    The task, as the authors point out, is “exponentially more difficult” than keeping existing supply chains in the United States, because China recognized the importance of critical minerals for high-tech economies well before other global players, and has been jockeying for the global pole position in the space ever since. Write Cruz and Dunleavy:

    “Bringing the supply chain to the United States requires granular knowledge of the industry, because investors are sitting on the sidelines of the critical minerals industry for different reasons than they’re sitting on the sidelines of the pharmaceutical industry. To fix this, we have to convince investors to get into a market where they are justifiably afraid China will undermine them at every point of the supply chain.”

    They point to Sen. Ted Cruz’s ORE Act and Gov. Dunleavy’s executive action to provide financing for REE mining projects in Alaska as examples of market-based incentives which, coupled with regulatory reform can jump-start the much-needed buildout of our nation’s crucial mineral supply chains.

    The ORE ACT provides tax incentives for buying American mined rare earths and battery minerals and metals; strengthens requirements for the Pentagon to source these critical mined materials from the U.S.; and establishes grants for pilot programs to develop these materials in the U.S.”

    Sen. Cruz and Gov. Dunleavy insist that “the entire country has a role to play” in the effort to build out a comprehensive domestic critical minerals supply chain – “from the reclamation of mines and reprocessing of mine waste rock in Appalachia, to mines in Texas, Alaska, California and Wyoming. In Alaska alone, 30 of the 35 critical minerals identified by President Trump are available for extraction, as well as tremendous amounts of commercial-grade graphite, lead, zinc and copper.”

    Efforts like the ORE Act are gaining traction in Congress, and Alaska – rich in metals and minerals (with 30 of the 35 deemed critical by the Department of the Interior in 2018 available for extraction) — is assuming a leadership role at the state level.

    We don’t have a moment to waste. As Sen. Cruz and Gov. Dunleavy argue:

    “At any time, China could cut off our access to rare earth elements and critical minerals. We need to act now to establish a critical mineral supply chain in the United States, and to make sure we can manufacture defense technologies and support our military. Our national security depends on it.”

    Click here to read the full op-ed.

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  • Critical Minerals and the Defense Industrial Base: Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Subcommittee

    Hours after President Donald Trump issued a new executive order declaring a national emergency on critical minerals, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support received testimony from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord on the integrity of America’s critical minerals supply chains. Kicking off the hearing, [...]
  • Scandium Has Yet to Go “Ballistic” — Will Recent Developments Change the Material’s Odds to Shine?

    “This obscure metal is going to go ballistic in a few years,” John Kaiser of Kaiser Research told the Investing News Network a few years ago. The metal he was referring to is Scandium — a material that is “as strong as titanium, as light as aluminum, and as hard as ceramic.” It’s a material [...]
  • Europe Comes to Terms with Mineral Supply Challenges, Unveils Action Plan

    As the U.S. explores its options when it comes to diversifying our critical minerals supply chains away from China in the wake of COVID-19, Europe is coming to grips with its own mineral supply challenges. According to European metals association Eurometaux, the region “has reached a critical fork in the road,” as it grapples with [...]
  • Europe Forges Ahead With Battery Gigafactory Buildout As U.S. Still Struggles to Get Off Starting Block

    The current coronavirus pandemic may have thrown a wrench into the gears of many industries, but — against the backdrop of skyrocketing materials supply needs in the context of the green energy transition — Europe continues to forge ahead with the buildout of its large-scale battery gigafactory capacity.  According to London-based Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, whose [...]
  • U.S. Import Reliance, Supply Chains, and National Security – A Visual

    The current coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on many aspects of social life and public policy. With nations struggling to secure critical medicines and other supplies, many of which are sourced from China, the global crisis is increasingly exposing the challenges associated with supply chain security — for medical devices, for personal protective [...]
  • Canada and U.S. to Draft “Joint Action Plan” on Rare Earths / Critical Minerals

    After years of missed opportunities to prioritize mineral resource policy, the U.S. government is stepping up its efforts to secure critical mineral resource supply chains.   The latest case in point is the drafting of a “joint action plan” with our neighbors to the North to reduce reliance on Chinese supplies of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) — which, [...]
  • Critical Mineral Uranium: No Import Quotas, But “Significant Concerns” Prompt Fuller Analysis of Nuclear Fuel Supply Chain

    Primarily known for its energy applications, (and thus falling under the purview of the Department of Energy) uranium may have not been much of a focal point for ARPN in the past.   However, the policy issues surrounding uranium – many of which have a familiar ring to followers of ARPN – increasingly warrant a [...]
  • Moving Beyond the Report Stage? – Specter of REE Supply Disruptions Prompts Congressional Action on Critical Minerals

    The U.S. and China have resumed trade talks after last month’s meeting between U.S. President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka broke a deadlock — but key issues remain far from settled. Against the backdrop of both sides preparing for a protracted battle, Jeff Green, president [...]

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