American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Critical mineral Cobalt to become even more indispensable?

    New research from Swiss scientists indicates that Cobalt’s applications in solar technology may spark a surge in demand.

    While it is certainly not as visible in the news as the oft-discussed Rare Earths, the fact that Cobalt has to be considered a critical mineral is not a secret.

    In 2011, it was one of only four minerals to appear on all three recently published lists of critical metals: the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Strategy list, the American Physical Society’s Panel on Public Affairs & Materials Research Society’s list of Energy Critical Elements, and the European Commission’s Critical Raw Materials list. (The other metals or element groups were REEs, Platinum Group Elements (PGEs), and Lithium.)

    With its applications in industrial and various critical defense applications, it came as no surprise when Cobalt also took a top tier spot in the American Resources Risk Pyramid, a risk screen for metals and minerals used in U.S. defense applications we created in 2012.

    However, with its new applications in solar technology, the metal may become even more indispensable, thus deepening supply challenges.

    According to USGS data, the U.S. is home to significant Cobalt deposits, but our import dependency currently stands at 78 percent. As we have previously pointed out, the U.S. is largely dependent on China here, which has tied up a majority of the world’s cobalt through agreements with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s largest Cobalt supplier and hardly a reliable trading partner.

    With vast mineral resources beneath our own soil, isn’t it time our policy makers focus on reducing our mineral resource dependencies and the challenges that arise from it?

  • Too little, too late? The West’s response to China’s REE stranglehold

    In an effort to challenge China’s near-total supply monopoly and the geopolitical power play that came with it, countries around the world have taken steps to seek alternative sources of supply. With new production coming online in the U.S. and Australia in recent years, along with small-scale production in India, U.S. Geological Survey figures document a drop of China’s market share from 98 percent to 86 percent last year.

    However, a recent article in the British daily The Telegraph argues that this response may be too little, too late, and that this new production is not enough reason for manufacturers relying on Rare Earths to breathe easier:

    “(…) even if China’s stranglehold on production of the raw elements is challenged, analysts warn that a more significant hold on the market remains unabated.”

    The problem, as the article points out, is not that China has a monopoly on the resource itself – although being home to roughly 36 percent of the world’s reserves itself is not insignificant. China’s main advantage here lies in the fact that, having established world-leading processing facilities and the ability to manufacture, it has a monopoly on the process:

    “The thing to remember is that China’s goal in offering state support to its home-grown rare earths industry was much broader than just digging and processing ore, says Kieron Hodgson, mining analyst at Charles Stanley.

    Beijing, instead, was aiming to build a value chain, where by the rare earths are dug up, processed, and then incorporated into end products.”

    According to the piece, the United States’ saving grace may be that “it has enough resources to start an industry.” Whether it will be able to succeed in doing that remains to be seen, but in any case, the developments in the Rare Earths field hold a cautionary tale for policies towards other critical minerals and should be reason enough for policy makers to focus on devising a comprehensive critical minerals strategy.

  • Tellurium – a critical mineral to be watched

    In her latest piece for ProEdgeWire, Robin Bromby suggests that Tellurium may well be the newest critical metal. Citing two “throwaway lines” from recent reports and media reporting which indicate increased demand for the metal, Bromby goes on to give reasons why Tellurium should be placed on observers’ critical metals watch lists: “Tellurium is vital [...]
  • Parnell Administration makes strides to implement resource strategy for Alaska

    Alaska Attorney General Daniel S. Sullivan gives an account of the state of the Parnell Administration’s five-part strategy to support the mining industry in a column for Petroleum News. This strategy, which was unveiled at the September 2011 Strategic and Critical Minerals Summit, comprises the following components: Undertaking a statewide assessment of strategic minerals; Providing [...]
  • Waiting for DoD: What does the Pentagon think of our rare earths vulnerability?

    Inquiring Congressional minds want to know — or at least the Congressional mind belonging to Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), co-chair (with Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman) of the newly-formed Rare Earths Caucus. During Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s House Armed testimony this week, Cong. Johnson seized the opportunity to ask where things stood with the Pentagon’s report [...]
  • New USGS grants award $260,000 towards domestic mineral research

    The United States Geological Survey announced that it has granted more than $260,000 for “new research on mineral resources important to [US] economy, national security, and land-use decisions,” including rare earths, niobium, and tantalum.
  • 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 [...]
  • China to cut export quotas for antimony, tungsten and other specialty metals

    Bearing testimony to the fact that China’s geopolitical power play stretches beyond rare earths elements, around which its restrictive export policies were centered in recent months, China has announced it is going to cut export quotas for other specialty metals as well.   According to Nasdaq, Beijing’s China Daily News and the Rare Earths industry journal have [...]
  • Company “Solves” REE Shortage… By Moving Manufacturing to China

    Another example of what happens when one country dominates supply of a resource, California-based phosphor maker Intematix, relying on rare earths to produce phosphors used for fluorescent light bulbs and white LEDs, has decided to move some of its manufacturing to China.  The news comes on the heels of Japanese metals fabricator Showa Denko announcing [...]
  • REE shortage has GE Lighting reeling

    If you’ve had to replace a light bulb in your home lately, then you have may have noticed that the price for lighting has gone up significantly. The reason behind the price hike is two-fold: 1) recent legislation that passed, mandating the phasing out of the light bulb as we know it, and 2) the current [...]