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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for The Economic Standard: Red Swan – a Leaked 2010 Cable on Critical Infrastructure/Key Resource Vulnerabilities Provided Warning Signs We Failed To Act On

    In a new piece for The Economic Standard, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues that while the “intellectual shrug” of “who could have seen this coming” tends to be a common reaction to our new normal of sheltering in place and social distancing, there were warning signs for a coming crisis we failed to recognize for what they were, and act accordingly.

    McGroarty tells the story of what he calls a “Red Swan” based on COVID-19’s point of origin in Wuhan, China — a leaked classified cable sent by the U.S. State Department in 2010 revealing “Critical Infrastructure/Key Resources” outside of the U.S. “whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic, and/or national and homeland security of the United States.” On it, under the heading for China: “Polypropylene Filter Material for N-95 Masks” — which, as McGroarty points out, are “[p]recisely the ones the federal government and states are scrambling to source right now. […] The U.S. Government knew in 2009 that N-95 masks were critical, came from China… And did nothing about it.”

    However, and this is where followers of ARPN may perk up, this is not all.  

    As McGroarty writes, the classified list in the cable also included a series of mines in China that were deemed critical, developing critical materials ranging from fluorspar and germanium over graphite to Rare Earths, tin and tungsten — for all of which the United States is greatly import-dependent, with degrees of reliance ranging from 63% for tungsten to 100% for fluorspar, graphite and rare earths. 

    Writes McGroarty:

    “As a warning unheeded, the cable makes for interesting reading in light of today’s COVID pandemic – and as U.S. policymakers embark on a rolling series of multi-trillion dollar spending bills, the next of which will include infrastructure projects. 

    At issue is not just one but three layers of risk:  Maybe the metals and minerals produced by the Chinese mines will be withheld in time of conflict, as Beijing seeks to leverage access for American concessions. Maybe the metals and minerals will soon be prioritized for internal Chinese consumption, under its Made in China 2025 program to drive Chinese technology dominance, with little left for export to the U.S. or elsewhere. 

    Or maybe – as the leaked cable presciently notes – the Chinese mines will be disrupted by a pandemic, slamming on the supply chain brakes for a U.S. economy dependent on critical materials that go from arriving “just in time” to “not at all.”

    In any case, the warning could hardly be more clear. The U.S. has a choice:  It can take immediate steps to reduce its dangerous dependency on a Chinese supply chain for critical technology metals. Or we can hope COVID 2.0 will not disrupt supply in a second global shut-down – or that Beijing won’t one day decide to curtail access to these critical materials in time of crisis.

    But here’s one thing we can no longer do:  If an act of nature or of man cuts off U.S. access to vital technology materials, we can’t claim to be surprised by the appearance of a Red Swan. We’ve seen it coming.”

    Read the full piece here.
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  • “Critical Minerals Alaska:” A Familiar Scenario for Tungsten – Chinese Domination and U.S. Prospects

    Pop quiz: Which metal has “the highest melting point of all the elements on the periodic table, (…) is a vital ingredient to a wide-range of industrial and military applications,” has made the Department of Interior’s final list of 35 metals deemed critical to U.S. national security, “yet none of this durable metal is currently mined in the United States?”

    In the seventh installment of “Critical Minerals” Alaska, a feature series for North of 60 Mining News that “investigates Alaska’s potential as a domestic source of minerals deemed critical to the United States,” Shane Lasley zeroes in on the metal described above: Tungsten.

    Once more, a familiar scenario unfolds here as is the case for so many of the metals and minerals deemed critical from a U.S. perspective – China dominates both production and global supply of the material. Writes Lasley:

    “In 2017, the Middle Kingdom produced an estimated 79,000 metric tons of tungsten, roughly 82 percent of the global total for the year. Vietnam, the world’s second largest tungsten supplier, produced 7,200 metric tons last year. Russia, Austria and the United Kingdom round out the world’s top tungsten sources.

    In recent years, however, China has put limitations on tungsten mining and exports of this durable metal, causing concerns about global supply.

    (…)

    While China touts stronger environmental safeguards as one of the primary reasons for restricting the mining of tungsten, as well as a host of other critical metals, many analysts believes the government’s motives have more to do with consolidating mining to the country’s largest producers and bolstering prices.

    Whatever the motivations, China’s production and export restrictions have resulted in sharp increases in the price of ferro-tungsten, an iron (25 percent) and tungsten (75 percent) alloy traded on world markets.”

    To followers of ARPN, who are no strangers to China’s propensity to play politics with its supply advantages — or, as in the case of Rare Earths, near-total supply monopolies — this should come as no surprise, and should be a consideration for policy makers in the current escalation of trade tensions between both countries.

    An opportunity to at least alleviate domestic supply concerns for Tungsten may be found in Alaska, writes Lasley:

    “Though none of this tough metal is currently mined in the United States, Alaska is a past producer of the tungsten minerals, wolframite and scheelite, and areas across the state show promise for future production of these and other critical minerals.” 

    Among them, the Lost River skarn on the Seward Peninsula about 80 miles northwest of Nome likely holds the most promise, according to Lasley:

    “With tungsten, fluorite, tin and beryllium all on USGS’s recent list of minerals critical to the United States, the Lost River deposit may well be worth the work to further define a critical metals deposit on U.S. soil.”

    To read Lasley’s full piece, click here.
    For other installments of his series, click here.

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  • “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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]

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