American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • “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 (DoD) applications. Noting that there is no suitable substitute for WRe wire, the bill directs the Secretary of Defense to determine whether there is sufficient supply of WRE wire to meet DoD requirements, and to submit a mitigation plan in case of a negative determination.

    As McGroarty argues, “in the case of Tungsten, the U.S. currently produces more than half of the metal it uses each year. Which makes Rhenium the weak link in the WRe chain.”

    The reason?  In spite of the fact that Rhenium is critical for high-temperature superalloys used in the turbines of the Joint Strike Fighter-35 and other fighter aircraft, there is no Rhenium in the U.S. National Defense Stockpile and the U.S. currently imports 78% of the Rhenium it uses.

    With Rhenium being a byproduct of Copper production, the non-specified military applications could be met if the proposed Resolution Copper mine project in Arizona – expected to increase U.S. Rhenium production by more than 200% – was realized.

    However, that project remains in limbo with a necessary land swap bill having met ferocious (and largely baseless) opposition by mining opponents.

    Concludes McGroarty:

    “U.S. policymakers have a choice to make. They can put in place a strategic resource development policy that would help produce more U.S. supply of critical metals like Rhenium – and, while they’re at it, the 18 other metals for which the U.S. is currently 100% import-dependent – or they can stick with our current faith-based resource policy on the theory that other countries will happily sell us the metals and minerals we fail to mine in the U.S.

    Until then, Rhenium will remain an example of the leverage the U.S. places in other country’s hands to provide – or withhold – metals critical to U.S. national security.”

    Click here to read the full piece. 

  • Why Tungsten should be on your critical minerals watch list

    In a comprehensive interview with The Metals Report, analyst Mark Seddon explains why Tungsten should be on people’s watch list, or, as the interview headline suggests: “Why you should look twice at an ugly duckling metal.”

    Like some of the other critical metals and minerals we have covered on our blog – Antimony and Cobalt come to mind – Tungsten lacks the sex appeal that made investors fall for the rare earth story.”  Says Seddon:

    “One of the big differences between tungsten and REEs is their applications. Tungsten is a very industrial metal. It’s mainly used as a carbide or “hard metal” in drilling and cutting tools used in heavy industry. Tungsten is not sexy in that sense. It’s a very solid industrial market. This contrasts with REEs, which are used in a lot of newer, high-tech applications that are much easier for the investment community to make into an exciting story.”

    While Tungsten may be used in industrial applications that don’t get people as excited as, say, green technologies, there are no viable substitutes at this point.

    Meanwhile, there is a strong geopolitical aspect factoring into the Tungsten narrative:  As is the case with Rare Earths, most of the world’s Tungsten comes from China, which accounts for roughly 80 percent of global Tungsten output, a fact that invites similar challenges as the ones manufacturers relying on REES have seen in the past.

    Further complicating the supply picture for domestic manufacturers is the fact that Tungsten from the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and surrounding regions, another main source of supply, has been labeled a conflict mineral and subjected to a series of (confusing) reporting requirements under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and respective rules handed down by the SEC in 2012.

    A partial solution to at least some of the challenges may lie in the domestic development of our Tungsten supplies, which would allow for reducing our overreliance on foreign minerals and allow for “conflict-free” sourcing.  In any case, however, the Tungsten narrative once more shows that critical resource policy cannot occur in a vacuum, as the strategic implications of our supply issues stretch far beyond the now often-discussed Rare Earths story.

  • 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 [...]
  • Three Ts and related issues at MetalMiner’s Chicago conference earlier this month

    With the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo being a rich source of the so-called Three Ts – Tantalum, Tin and Tungsten – and these minerals having been used to finance the civil war in the region, “conflict minerals” are a hot-button issue. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and respective rules [...]
  • 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. [...]
  • Antimony metal to be watched

    In a piece for DailyMarkets.com, analyst Jeb Handwerger zeroes in on Antimony. Antimony is a key component in fire retardants as well as batteries, ceramics, touch-screen technology, glass, and ammunition and has seen largely stable prices in unstable economic times. With China being its top producer controlling nearly 90 percent of global supply and other [...]
  • Tungsten and Fluorspar – strategic implications of mineral resource supply issues stretch beyond REEs

    You wouldn’t necessarily expect to find Tungsten and Fluorspar mentioned in the same sentence as “Rare Earth Metals.” With its traditional applications in ballistics, the former is historically known as a “war metal,” while the latter has been an important component for chemical applications. And in spite of the fact that Tungsten makes the top [...]
  • Is Warren Buffett an American Resource reader?

    ARPN’s Tungsten Month is over, but we will make an exception in the case for investment legend Warren Buffett. It seems one of his investment arms is taking a position in the re-commissioned tungsten mine in the United Kingdom, last operated as part of the industrial war effort during World War II. As American Resource [...]
  • Commerce Department warned of China’s grip on tungsten in 2009 report

    Largely known as a popular material for wedding bands, it is a little-known and under-reported fact that tungsten is one of the hottest commodities these days. While U.S. government agencies are miles away from speaking with one voice on the issue of critical minerals and metals, at least one agency, the Department of Commerce, has [...]
  • Happy Tungsten Month – highlighting a “stepchild” in the latest WTO case

    If you haven’t lived under a rock, you will know that there’s a new WTO case brought on by the United States, Japan and the EU over China’s restrictive mineral policies, specifically focusing on the country’s near total rare earths supply monopoly. The media has been all over it, and that’s a positive development, as [...]