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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 2016 – A Mixed Bag for Mineral Resource Policy

    It’s that time of the year again.  And as people are gearing up for the New Year, we are taking the opportunity to take stock of the last twelve months, and want to highlight a few select notable developments of relevance to ARPN followers.

    From a mineral resource policy perspective, we saw some positive developments in Congress during the first half of the year, culminating in the inclusion of critical mineral legislation in the House and Senate energy bills, respectively.

    While Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s American Mineral Security Act of 2015 (S. 883) was passed as part of the Senate’s Energy Modernization Policy Act of 2016 (S. 2012), observers were hopeful that the mineral sections of the package would be conferenced with H.R. 1937, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015 - a bill similar to Murkowski’s introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei, R- Nevada, and passed as part of the House of Representatives’ energy package.  Both bills aimed at facilitating domestic resource development by calling for an assessment of critical mineral resource needs and tackling permitting delays, and would have constituted a big step towards reducing our dependence on foreign mineral resources.

    However, as the summer drew on, a successful conference between both chambers’ versions became more and more doubtful, and in spite of all efforts, in December, the push to enact comprehensive energy legislation with strong critical mineral provisions was declared dead by chamber leaders.

    Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dropped a proposed set of new financial assurance requirements for owners and operators of certain hard rock mining operations. The proposed rule, which ARPN Principal Dan McGroarty discussed in a widely publicized op-ed over in the Summer, would de facto duplicate the responsibilities of other federal agencies, preempt state authority, and in doing so place an undue burden and a potentially devastating blow to the mining industry.  While the EPA published the proposed rule in December, there is a good chance the agency will take a fresh look at the issue with the change of Administrations in January, which is expected to bring a significant shift in policy priorities.

    In 2016, a trend we had previously noted continued – the increasing importance of metals and minerals previously often dubbed “minor metals.”  The growth of the battery technology sector, which ARPN expert Simon Moores’ recent event in Washington, D.C. discussed, represents only one facet of this development.

    Many of these high tech metals and minerals have become indispensible building block of 21st Century tech, and are derived mainly by way of “Co-Product”-development – i.e. as part of the development of more common “Gateway Metals” like Copper, Aluminum, Zinc, Nickel and Tin, for example.   Acknowledging the disparity between the growing importance of these materials and the lack of public discourse on the subject, we embarked on an online informational campaign aimed at shedding light on the relevance and correlation between Gateway and Co-Product Metals.  In case you missed the series or parts thereof, here’s a handy summary post with links to everything we’ve published on the subject.

    As we’ve pointed out as part of our campaign, much remains to be done, as our foreign mineral resource dependencies – particularly for many of the Co-Products we featured, but also for some of the Gateway Metals – are significant, and, in some instances deepening.

    We would be remiss, however, if we didn’t point out a positive development here:

    In October, The Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) announced it will join with global mining and minerals company Rio Tinto to study new ways to capture Gateway Metals needed in clean power manufacturing.

    As we’ve previously pointed out:

    “[M]any challenges remain and we are a far cry from the comprehensive critical minerals strategy our nation would need. However, efforts like the latest CMI-Rio Tinto public private partnership represent a promising step towards reducing our foreign dependencies for many of the mineral resources that are necessary for our society’s shift towards a clean energy future, and for our domestic manufacturers to thrive and be competitive.”

    On the whole, 2016 represents another mixed bag for mineral resource policy, however, there are indications that with the new Administration taking over in Washington, D.C., we may see a shift towards a more comprehensive and strategic look at our nation’s critical mineral needs.

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  • Through the Gateway: A Scholarly Look

    Over the course of the past few months, we have featured two classes of metals and minerals, which we believe deserve more attention than they are currently being awarded.  Expanding on the findings of our 2012 “Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology” report, in which we focused on a group of five “Gateway” metals which “unlock” a series of “Co-Products” – tech metals increasingly indispensable to innovation and development.

    In spite of the fact that the five Gateway Metals Aluminum, Copper, Nickel, Tin and Zinc and their Co-Products are growing in significance, stakeholders in academia, policy making and industry have been slow to take note of the correlation between them.  One notable exception is a study by N.T. Nassar, T.E. Graedel, and E.M. Harper, published in Science Advances in April of 2015.

    The authors of By-product metals are technologically essential but have problematic supply cast their net a bit wider using a somewhat more scholarly approach and different terminology to describe “Gateway Metals” and “Co-Products” – they refer to them as “Host Metals” and “By-Product” or “Companion Metals.”  Nomenclature aside, their findings and conclusions are similar to the ones we have drawn.

    Of particular interest is their depiction of the periodic table of elements showing “companionality” based on data for 62 metals and metalloids.  Their conclusion: “61%, or 38 of the 62 metals evaluated, have the majority (that is, >50%) of their global production obtained as a companion.” 

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    The bottom line, according to Nassar, Graedel and Harper, should sound familiar to American Resources followers: 

    “It is undeniable that the widespread use of companion metals has resulted in markedly improved performance in many product sectors. Sustaining those uses may become a challenge going forward because of the dependence of companion metal supplies on the production of host metals. (…)

    As it now stands, much of modern technology depends on metals whose supplies are uncertain and whose market transactions are largely opaque; in concert, this produces a supply situation that may prove difficult to sustain.”

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  • 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: Tin, Co-Products and Shifting Paradigms

    While not as flashy as some other metals, Tin’s versatility will continue to drive demand.  We are familiar with its use in food preservation.  Meanwhile, ITRI, the tin industry’s UK-based trade association, highlights the “storage, generation and conservation of energy as key drivers for new applications for the metal over the next 3 to 30 years.” Coupled with its [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Through The Gateway: Indium – Taking Virtual Reality Mainstream?

    Here we [Pokémon] go again.  It’s only been a couple of weeks, and we find another reason to talk about an augmented reality game that has taken the world by storm. But there’s a good reason: Pokémon Go may be giving us a glimpse into our future, or more precisely, the future of smartphone technology.  [...]
  • Compliance with conflict minerals rule remains challenging for manufacturers

    Compliance with federal law and a new SEC rule regarding the sourcing of so-called conflict minerals — Tungsten, Tin, Tantalum and Gold from the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and surrounding regions — remains challenging. For U.S. manufacturers to navigate and properly follow the new guidelines is just one piece of [...]
  • May’s Metals of the Month – the “Three T’s:” Tungsten, Tin and Tantalum

    After a few-month-long hiatus, it is time to bring back our Metals of the Month feature on the blog. In its context, we have been highlighting the breadth of our mineral needs and potential by showcasing the utilities of metals and minerals for which the United States is largely import-dependent, as well as associated challenges. [...]
  • Tin as a Critical Metal?

    A piece on Pro Edge Newswire, the re-branded and expanded home for Rare Metal Blog, asks if Tin is a “critical metal.” And indeed, in spite of the fact that it has been mined since 3000 BC, it appears to have all the makings of a critical metal with its many new applications and a [...]
  • Peruvian Elections Raise Issue of Resource Dependency for U.S.

    The election victory of leftist Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala in this week’s runoff election has instilled fears of higher taxes and new restrictive policies in the mining sector.  Peru is a leading producer of precious metals, and the U.S. relies heavily on Peruvian imports of zinc, tin, gold, copper, and silver. (To see exactly [...]

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