During an industry event in Melbourne, Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan announced that Australia and the United States are going to sign a preliminary agreement to foster mineral research and development cooperation between the two countries.
The announcement comes on the heels of the release of U.S. Department of Interior’s list of 35 metals and minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security and the economy. Speaking before the Melbourne Mining Club, Canavan said:
“For 14 of those 35 critical minerals, we are in the top five (holders) of world reserves, so they are the ones we’d like to focus on.”
Under the agreement, Geoscience Australia will work closely with its U.S. counterpart USGS in the areas of extraction and processing, as well as research and development.
Canavan expects to speak with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as early as Thursday of this week.
Against the backdrop of the United States’ ever-growing over-reliance on minerals from nations who are arguably not our best trading partners, the forthcoming agreement with Australia is a welcome development. It could also serve as a precursor to deepening and revitalizing the National Technology Industrial Base (NTIB), which, established in the 1990s to foster technology links between the U.S. and Canada, was expanded in 2016 to include Australia and the UK. As ARPN’s principal Dan McGroarty pointed out in a new piece for The Hill, this “four country economic colossus (…) constitutes a vast reservoir of economic might to draw on for collective security” and also hosts “production or known resources of all 35 of the minerals and metals on the U.S. Government’s newly-established Critical Minerals List.”
Increased cooperation with friends and allies is, however, only one piece of the resource policy puzzle.
ARPN followers know that much of the United States’ resource dependence is home-grown, as we are blessed to have vast mineral resources beneath our own soil. It is time to break with failed policies of the past. The release of the list of 35 critical minerals was a good first step, however, the next ones will be far more important, and paying mere lip service to previously stated lofty goals will no longer suffice.
The stakes are too high.
We have previously argued that there are several reasons why we will likely never achieve full resource independence – and for the metals and minerals we do not possess here at home, we must source from other countries, which is why this cooperative agreement with Australia is commendable. However, we must at the same time work towards reducing policy barriers to the responsible harnessing of our domestic resources, as “those those we possess but choose not to produce perpetuate a needless foreign dependence – leverage that other nations may well use to America’s disadvantage.”