American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • A look at tungsten shows why broad focus is needed for critical mineral strategy

    With this week’s WTO ruling on China’s raw materials exports (visit RareMetalBlog for our very own Daniel McGroarty’s take) all eyes are once again on rare earths – and for good reasons, as these critical elements are the poster child of the challenges associated with resource dependency. However, a broader focus is needed, and tungsten is a case in point.

    Used for hardening a variety of tools, bullets, and other military applications, tungsten has seen its value shoot up in 2011 with an increase of 35% in market value. And here’s the rub, according to Investment Logs:

    Like rare earth elements (REE), China produces most of the world’s tungsten supply. Since China restricted sales of Adenosine Triphosphate (APT), which is the main form tungsten is sold in, the price has doubled. Tungsten is following the same path as REEs, but no one has noticed yet.

    While the U.S. import dependency rate of 36 percent for tungsten may be lower than in previous years due to increased scrap consumption, challenges remain:

    With China, our main tungsten supplier, continuing to engage in geopolitical power plays with its mineral resources, the tungsten supply outlook stays troublesome, leading the British Geological Survey to rank it as one of the metals most prone to supply disruptions.

    According to the USGS, the U.S. is home to significant tungsten deposits, among vast reserves of many other metals and minerals – so why have we not yet overhauled our policies to maximize our domestic resource potential? Securing our strategic and economic future all while creating thousands of jobs should be a key priority for any policy maker.

  • Rare earths and beyond: China is shaping India’s mineral policy

    In today’s globalized world, it doesn’t take a seat at the decision-making table for one nation to influence another’s domestic policies – a near-monopoly on critical mineral resources will do.  A case in point is India, which, after a seven-year hiatus, is expanding its indigenous Rare Earth Element (REE) production over growing concerns that China may be taking advantage of its rare earths dominance.

    Not only is an Indian government panel preparing a strategy paper emphasizing the need for domestic exploration of REE’s (according to a Mineweb.com story), but the country is also reportedly funding a rare earths plant to the tune of 1.4 billion rupees ($32 million USD).

    Acknowledging that resource dependency issues stretch beyond rare earths, the Indian public policy debate is zeroing in on the broader critical minerals supply issues.  In light of “the proliferation of trade-distorting measures by emerging economies such as China,” which according to one Indian expert also applies to copper, aluminum, nickel, molybdenum, manganese, magnesium, tungsten, and indium; analysts lament the curtailment of domestic production and call for policy measures to secure supply of these strategic minerals.

    As U.S. lawmakers return to Capitol Hill following the August District Work Period, they, too, would be well advised to shift their attention to the global race for resources. That means prioritizing policy measures to alleviate our unnecessary dependence on foreign critical minerals, and turning our focus toward the mineral riches beneath our own soil.