American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • New USGS Methodology Identifies 23 Mineral Commodities at Greatest Risk to Supply Disruption

    A new risk tool developed by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners identifies 23 metals and minerals relevant to U.S. manufacturing that are at greatest risk to supply disruption.

    The methodology, entitled “Evaluating the Mineral Commodity Supply Risk of the U.S. Manufacturing Sector” and published in Science Advances was developed to help meet the goals outlined in the 2019 interagency report entitled “A Federal Strategy to Ensure a Reliable Supply of Critical Minerals,” which was released  pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order 13817 of 2018.

    The report evaluated the global supply of and U.S. demand for 52 mineral commodities for the years 2007 to 2016.

    Researchers determined that “[t]he supply risk of mineral commodities to U.S. manufacturers is greatest under the following three circumstances: U.S. manufacturers rely primarily on foreign countries for the commodities, the countries in question might be unable or unwilling to continue to supply U.S. manufacturers with the minerals; and U.S. manufacturers are less able to handle a price shock or from a disruption in supply.”

    The subset of 23 metals and minerals identified in the methodology as posing the greatest supply risk for the U.S. manufacturing sector includes some rare earth elements, cobalt, niobium and tungsten.

    The authors of the report point out that supply risk (SR)  is “dynamic, increasing and decreasing with changing global market conditions that are specific to each commodity and industry” and that [a] commodity with supply that is not at high risk today may become at high risk in the future as production and consumption patterns shift.”  However, they found that “significant changes in SR over short periods of time are rare,” and while “SR scores can and do change markedly, the subset of commodities with the highest SR has been largely consistent throughout the time period examined.”

    With risk arising at the “confluence of the three factors: hazard, exposure and vulnerability,”supply risk can be achieved by reducing any of these three. The authors point to the 2019 interagency report spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Commerce which effectively called for an “all-of-the-above“ approach of diversifying supply, fostering trade relations with strong allies, developing domestic primary and secondary resources and capabilities, recycling and substitution, as well as stockpiling to reduce exposure to supply disruptions. 

    They conclude that “[t]he degree to which any one of these strategies can be successful at minimizing the risk to an acceptable level depends on the specific commodity and the industries involved, as well as what is deemed to be an acceptable level of risk.”

    Here’s USGS’s full-size infographic to accompany the report:

  • 2020 Mineral Commodity Summaries:  Domestic Mineral Resource Production Increases While Foreign Dependencies Continue

    Last week, USGS released its 43rd Mineral Commodity Summaries – a comprehensive snapshot of global mineral production which gives us a window into where we stand as a nation in terms of mineral resource security.  

    Perhaps most instructive from an ARPN perspective is the chart depicting U.S. Net Import Reliance — previously casually referred to as “Page 6,” on our blog, but now moved to “Page 7.”  Maybe we’ll just call it the Blue Wall of Dependency, based on the many blue bars showing 100% import-dependence — which is down one from 2019 (a quick look into the footnotes of our favorite chart reveals that this is owed to Thorium being added to the category of metals and minerals for which “not enough information is available to calculate the exact percentage of import reliance”), but still totals 17.

    As followers of ARPN know, we have seen some incremental progress towards reducing our mineral resource dependencies, and particularly our over-reliance on metals and minerals from China, over the past two years. However, meaningful changes will take time. 

    There is a slight overall decrease in the number of metals and minerals for which we are 50% or more than 50% import-dependent — an area where we are down from 49 to 47. However, this drop, too, must be taken with a grain of NaCl.  For example, whereas in previous reports, iron oxide pigments were separated into two separate categories (natural and synthetic), these were combined into one category for the 2020 report.  Arguably significant drops can be noted for our dependencies for foreign supplies of Lithium and Aluminum (to >25% for Lithium and 22% for Aluminum).  And while our import reliance for Nickel has dropped to 47%, we are now dependent at a rate greater than 50% for Magnesium compounds.   Also notable, our reliance for Cobalt — a critical component of Electric Vehicle battery technology — has gone up from 61% to 78%.

    Once more, our favorite chart underscores that much remains to be done to reduce our mineral resource dependencies.  China continues to be the elephant in the data room, and is listed 25 times as one of the major import sources of metals and minerals for which our net import reliance is 50% or greater.

    On a positive note, the 2020 Mineral Commodity Summaries notes that domestic metal mine production has increased to $28.1 billion, which is almost $500 million higher than in 2018.  Perhaps most encouraging, a significant increase in domestic production has occurred in the Rare Earth mineral concentrates segment, where USGS notes that “the domestic production of critical rare-earth mineral concentrates increased by 8,000 metric tons (over 44%) in 2019 to 26,000 metric tons, making the U.S. the largest producer of rare-earth mineral concentrates outside of China.”  Yet all of the U.S.-produced rare earths concentrate was exported to China for separation into individual rare earth elements, since that portion of the supply chain doesn’t exist in the U.S.

    Hopefully, these findings provide fresh impetus for mineral resource policy reform, for which we have seen incremental progress since 2018. 

    To read the full USGS report, click here.

    For previous iterations, click here.

  • U.S. and Australia Formalize Critical Minerals Partnership

    The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has signed a project agreement with its Australian counterpart, GeoScience Australia, to jointly develop a “better understanding of both countries’ critical mineral reserves.”  The agreement is the result of ongoing agency-level talks between the United States and Australia and the recent announcement of a forthcoming formal roll out of an “action [...]
  • Release of USGS’s 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries Once More Underscores Need for Resource Policy Reform

    The partial shutdown of the federal government at the beginning of this year had delayed its release, but last week, USGS published its 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries. Followers of ARPN will know that we await the publication’s release with somewhat bated breath every year, as especially “Page 6” – the chart depicting U.S. Net Import [...]
  • McGroarty Warns of Real World Problem for 21st Century American Warrior

    In a new commentary for Investor’s Business Daily, ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty warns of “America’s unilateral disarmament in the resource wars.”  Invoking the world of Marvel comics, in which Vibranium is the imaginary metal used for Captain America’s shield, IronMan’s exoskeleton, and Black Panther’s energy-absorbing suit, McGroarty argues that the 21st Century American warrior (perhaps [...]
  • Metals in the Spotlight – Aluminum and the Intersection between Resource Policy and Trade

    While specialty and tech metals like the Rare Earths and Lithium continue to dominate the news cycles, there is a mainstay metal that has – for good reason – been making headlines as well: Aluminum.  Bloomberg recently even argued that “Aluminum Is the Market to Watch Closely in 2019.”  Included in the 2018 list of 35 [...]
  • Copper and the 2018 Critical Minerals List – Considerations for Resource Policy Reform

    While we’re still waiting for policy makers and other stakeholders to take further action, in 2018 an important step was taken to set the stage for mineral resource policy reform with the release of the Department of Interior’s List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy. Throughout the drafting stage [...]
  • 2019 New Year’s Resolutions for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    Out with the old, in with the new, they say. It‘s new year‘s resolutions time.  With the end of 2017 having set the stage for potentially meaningful reform in mineral resource policy, we outlined a set of suggested resolutions for stakeholders for 2018 in January of last year.  And while several important steps  were taken [...]
  • The “Indispensable Twins” of Critical Minerals – Niobium and Tantalum

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on what USGS has dubbed the “indispensable twins” – Niobium and Tantalum. Both share “nearly indistinguishable physical and chemical properties” and are “critical to the defense, energy and high-tech sectors.”  Meanwhile, neither Niobium nor Tantalum are mined in the United States, so their inclusion [...]
  • Beyond Golf Clubs and Aircraft – “Critical Minerals Alaska” Zeroes in on Titanium 

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of Sixty Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on Titanium – an “abundant element that has become an important industrial commodity only within the past 150 years,” according to USGS. As Lasley writes, “Titanium conjures images of the durable and lightweight metal used to build aircraft, replacement hips, [...]