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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 Reliance – gives us a window into where we stand as a nation in terms of mineral resource security.

    We’re not overly surprised, though, to see that there are no major changes compared to last year. The number of metals and minerals for which we are 100% import-dependent may have dropped slightly (from 21 to 18), but a closer look into the footnotes of our favorite chart reveals that for two of the minerals previously included in the 100% import-reliance category, Quartz Chrystal (Industrial) and Thallium USGS states that “not enough information is available to calculate the exact percentage of import dependence” this year. For the third mineral to drop out of the 100% import-reliance category, Yttrium, numbers have dropped to 95% with production in California’s Mountain Pass mine having restarted in the first quarter of 2018. That is a positive development, but hardly a seismic shift in domestic resource development.

    The number of metals and minerals for which we are 50% or more than 50% import-dependent is still at 49, down one from 50 – but with the above-referenced caveat of lacking data for two materials – so it may in fact be higher than last year.

    The fact of the matter is that U.S net import reliance remains too high, and has – with implications for our economy and national security. USGS’s comparing its net import reliance numbers with the Department of the Interior’s Critical Minerals List, released for the first time in 2017, underscores this:

    14 of the 18 mineral commodities with 100% net import reliance were considered “critical” by DOI. 15 of the 30 remaining mineral commodities with imports greater than 50 percent of annual consumption were also reflected on DOI’s list. Aluminum, listed at exactly 50 percent import-reliance on the 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries, also has “critical mineral” status as per DOI.

    Hopefully these findings provide fresh impetus for mineral resource policy reform, for which we saw incremental progress in 2018 – but are still awaiting further steps, including the release of the — by now long-overdue — report by the Department of Commerce subsequent to the 2017 presidential executive order on critical minerals outlining a “broader strategy” and recommending specific policy steps to implement it.

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  • 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 best exemplified by the SEALs, the U.S. Navy’s elite special operations force) is facing a real world problem: 

    “When today’s SEAL goes into combat, he takes one-quarter of the Periodic Table with him.

    The problem is, unlike the comic book world, these metals and minerals can’t be imagined — they must be mined and refined into advanced materials.”

    McGroarty cites the U.S. Geological Survey, which has found that a Navy SEAL’s gear contains at least 23 critical minerals and metals “for which the U.S. is greater than 50% net import reliant.”  However, as he points out, “[i]t gets worse: for 11 of them, our dependence is total — the U.S. produces zero.  And for 15, the world’s leading producer is China, a nation that the 2017 U.S. National Defense Strategy identifies as presenting a ‘central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.’”

    Followers of ARPN will know that the U.S. Government has begun to acknowledge the challenges associated with our over-reliance on foreign minerals, but policy changes that would ultimately address our strategic materials vulnerability have yet to be put forward.  

    Meanwhile, one of the United States’ biggest adversaries on the global scale is not only acutely aware of the issue of resource dependence, it is cultivating its growing role as global tech metal provider — leading McGroarty to invoke Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, who 2,500 years ago hailed the ability to “subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

    Says McGroarty:

    “This dictum from the ‘Art of War’ raises an urgent question:  Could it be that China’s rising role as a technology metal provider — while the U.S. military becomes more and more dependent on metals and minerals we produce less and less of — is an asymmetry China is cultivating with an eye towards exploiting it in time of conflict?

    Because the fact is it won’t matter how razor-sharp skilled and implacably dedicated our forces are, if the U.S. Defense Industrial Base lacks the materials needed to provide them the weapons they need for the fight.”

    Last week, Simon Moores, managing director for Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts members may have used fewer imagery and focused more specifically on battery tech metals when briefing the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources – but his warning was equally stern:

    “We are in the midst of a global battery arms race in which the US is presently a bystander.”  

    Here’s hoping that our policy makers will finally take action to address what has become – in the words of Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski – our Achilles’ heel that serves to empower and enrich other nations, while costing us jobs and international competitiveness.”

    How policy makers move forward in the coming months will be critical, because, as McGroarty points out:

    “Unlike Marvel Comics or the movies, we can’t make up the metals superheroes need to triumph over evil.  If we want our real-world warfighters to keep their edge over America’s enemies, it’s time we mine those metals right here at home.”

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  • 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, [...]
  • Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

    Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – “new kids on the block” arrive in groups. Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, [...]
  • Vanadium’s Time to Shine?

    Steve LeVine, Future Editor at Axios and Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council, has called it “one of the most confounding areas of research” and a “technology that, while invented more than two centuries ago, is still frustrating scientists.”   It is also one of the areas where one of the key growth industries – [...]
  • “Critical Minerals Alaska” – North of 60 Mining News Publishes Series on Alaska’s Resource Potential

    Against the backdrop of an increased focus on critical minerals at the federal level, North of 60 Mining News — an Alaska-based trade publication covering mineral resource issues for Alaska, northern British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut — has started a new series of articles ARPN followers may wish to bookmark. As Lasley pointed [...]

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