American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • A Nickel for Your Thoughts: New Potential for U.S. Nickel Supply

    As Memorial Day heralds the unofficial beginning of the summer travel season, ARPN has a suggestion to make to pass the time whether you’re gridlocked on the interstate or airport security:  Check out a podcast called “Battery Metals – A Nickel for Your Thoughts.”

    Too wonky?  Who cares?  That’s what earbuds are for – no one has to know that you’re not binging True Crime or learning a new language.

    Better to bone up on a metal that’s emerging as a mainstay of the net zero transition.

    As ARPN previously outlined, a “relatively benign supply profile” kept nickel off the U.S. Government’s first List of Critical Minerals in 2018. However, the metal’s increased usage in EV batteries, and the USGS’s expanded criticality criteria to include materials with only a single domestic producer along their raw materials supply chains – identified as having a single point of failure – led to nickel’s incorporation into the 2021 update to the U.S. Government Critical Minerals List.

    As followers of ARPN may recall, Indonesia, the world’s biggest nickel producer, has hinted at the possibility of Jakarta pursuing the creation of an OPEC-like cartel for nickel (and other key battery minerals).  Reportedly, the Indonesian government has reached out to the Biden Administration to explore a deal similar to those the U.S. has made with Japan and the European Union; however, Indonesia’s “lagging environmental and labor standards”, raise some hard questions on how broad the net of “friends and allies” can and should be cast.

    In the case of nickel, once again ARPN’s touchstone is our all-of-the-above approach to mineral resource policy, rooted in the realization that as much as we want to rely on our friends and allies, to succeed and remain competitive in the 21st Century we will also have to harness our arguably vast domestic resource potential across the entire value chain, from mine to manufacturing.  And domestic nickel production looks to be given a boost by projects currently underway in Minnesota (see our post here), as well as  what appears to be vast untapped mineral potential in neighboring Michigan.

    Currently, Michigan is the home of the only U.S. primary nickel mine in operation, the Eagle Mine.  Yet as the Detroit News reports this week, even with the Eagle nearing the end of its life cycle, according to the USGS, the Lake Superior region “could be home to as much nickel as Russia or Canada, some of the largest nickel producers in the world.” 

    The Detroit News points to Talon Metals Corp.’s plan to explore 400,000 acres of the Upper Peninsula and seek exclusive exploration rights to an additional 23,288 acres from the state, as well as the Michigan Geological Survey’s search of portions of the region in the context of the United States Geological Survey’s current nationwide mapping project.

    John Yellich, director of the Michigan Geological Survey based at Western Michigan University, believes that the area’s potential may go beyond nickel, and that new technology will help scientists gather “as much scientifically accurate information as possible” in an area where the federal government hasn’t done significant mapping for 70 years.

    If the estimates hold up, Michigan (along with Minnesota) could be an important piece of the all-of-the-above puzzle for nickel for which a current oversupply is expected to dissipate and tip into a deficit by 2026, with EV battery technology as a key driver.

    However, as is the case with neighboring Minnesota, and as U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Stauber (R-MN) recently outlined,

    “[I]f we’re going to unlock the full potential of our resources and secure our domestic mineral supply chains, we need the political will to implement permitting reform.”   

    As Michigan and Minnesota make clear, the U.S. has vast resource potential for precisely the metals and minerals needed to power our 21st Century economy.  What the U.S. needs now is policy reform that unlocks the investment and innovation to realize that potential.

  • Tech Arms Race to Heat Up as Western Nations Take Steps to Counter China on Semiconductors, Critical Minerals

     Semiconductors have become indispensable components for a broad range of electronic devices.

    They are not only “the material basis for integrated circuits that are essential to modern day life” – the “‘DNA’ of technology” which has “transformed essentially all segments of the economy,” they are also essential to national security, where they enable the “development and fielding of advanced weapons systems and control toe operation of the nation’s critical infrastructure,” as the Department of Commerce-led chapter in the Biden Administration’s 100 Day Supply Chain Review report outlines.

    As such, they sit at the heart of U.S.-Chinese tech competition, and have been dubbed “the next frontier in the tech battle between the U.S. and China” for good reason.

    In his State of the Union address last month, U.S. President Joe Biden touted last fall’s passage of the CHIPS and Science Act allocating new funding for research, development and production of semiconductors, which has spurred private investment in the sector. Following on the heels of the new law, the Commerce Department in October applied new export controls to China’s access to advanced computing chips, its ability to develop and maintain super computers and manufacture semiconductors.

    As Shubham Dwivedi and Gregory D. Wischer wrote last month for RealClearEnergy, “[t]he subsequent chip measures were clinically targeted at critical chokepoints in the global chip supply chain, and have since been backed by important partners, including Japan and the Netherlands, two key players in the advanced semiconductor ecosystem.” 

    But the semiconductor space is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    Write Dwivedi and Wischer:

    “Semiconductors require various minerals such as silicon, gallium, arsenic, cobalt, and more. Silicon is the most common foundational material for chips today, while gallium arsenide is the second most common. Cobalt is increasingly important for advanced chips too.”

    As long as China controls critical mineral supply chains – and a look at the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries leaves no doubt about that, semiconductor supply chains – and as such national security will still be jeopardized.

    In their quest to alleviate “undue geopolitical leverage,” U.S. allies like Canada, and more recently Australia, have taken steps to reduce Chinese influence in their critical mineral industries.

    proposal to bolster the Investment Canada Act (ICA) to empower government ministers to block or unwind critical mineral investments if these are considered as a threat to national security, considered a defensive measure against China which has invested $7 billion in Canada’s base metals sector in the past two decades, is expected to be finalized this spring. Prior to the unveiling of the proposal, Canadian officials had ordered Chinese companies to sell their stakes in three Toronto Stock Exchange-listed companies last fall.

    Australia’s Treasurer Jim Chalmers recently blocked a request by a Chinese company to boost its investment in Australian REE company Northern Minerals via a prevention order, the first move of this kind since the Treasurer had expressed concerns over the “concentrated nature of the China-dominated critical minerals supply chain” elevated by the Russia-Ukraine war.

    When Dwivedi and Wischer published their piece in February, they lamented that the CHIPS and Science Act represents a missed opportunity to strengthen the U.S. domestic critical mineral industry, and urged Congress to take up legislation to not only provide funding for domestic critical mineral projects, but rather also reform the cumbersome permitting system.

    Since then, House Republicans have put forth the  Transparency, Accountability, Permitting and Production of (TAPP) American Resources Act, H.R. 1 which seeks to bolster U.S. critical mineral supply chains by reducing red tape, entry barriers and redundancies, and reforming the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to provide industry with clearer timelines and more certainty, and would emulate, to an extent Canada’s and Australia’s approach to curbing Chinese influence by seeking to limit Chinese and other “bad actors’”involvement in the U.S. critical minerals industry.

    H.R. 1 will only be an opening salvo in the discourse over securing the supply chains underpinning 21stCentury technology, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the West has woken up to the seriousness of its over-reliance on Beijing, and the tech arms race is heating up.

  • Dysprosium – More Critical Than Its REE Peers, At Least for the Automobile Industry?

    Followers of ARPN have known since long before the U.S. Government issued its first comprehensive Critical Minerals List in 2018 that rare earth elements are in fact critical minerals. However, more often than not, the group composed of scandium, yttrium and the lanthanides has been treated as a homogenous group considered critical for producing electronics, [...]
  • This Week’s Dramatic Development: The Rise of the “Defense Criticals”

    by Daniel McGroarty The Critical Mineral space in the U.S. experienced a dramatic development this week, largely overlooked beyond specialty reporting in the defense and energy media:  With his February 27, 2023 Presidential Determination, President Biden once more invoked Title III of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to strengthen critical mineral supply chains – and in doing [...]
  • Under the Radar, Yet Highly Critical – A Look at the Battery Critical Manganese

    It is essential to the production of iron and steel. It is a key component of certain widely used aluminum alloys.  It’s considered a Critical Mineral by the U.S. Government, “essential to the national defense,” under the terms of the long-standing Defense Production Act.  And, perhaps most importantly today, it is one of the five battery criticals, with the [...]
  • As Critical Mineral Dependencies Persist, Promising “Battery Criticals” Projects Provide Opportunity to Ensure that “the Supply Chain for America Begins in America” – A Look at Graphite

     For all the talk about reducing our over-reliance on foreign critical mineral resources against the backdrop of soaring demand, strained supply chains and increasing geopolitical tensions, last week’s release of the annual USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries report still paints a sobering picture. While the number of metals and minerals for which the U.S. remains 100% import dependent [...]
  • Groundhog Day 2023 – Another Year of Critical Mineral Resource Dependence? USGS Releases Annual Mineral Commodity Summaries Report

    Earlier this week, USGS released its latest iteration of the annual Mineral Commodity Summaries, a much-cited report that every year gives us a data-driven glimpse into our nation’s mineral resource dependencies. It’s fitting that ARPN reviews the report on Groundhog Day, February 2nd, because just like in the Bill Murray classic movie, in which the clock jumps [...]
  • 2022 – ARPN’s YEAR IN REVIEW

      2022 surely was as fast-paced a year as they come. Didn’t we just throw overboard our New Year’s Resolutions?  We blinked, and it’s time for another review of what has happened in the past twelve months. So with no further ado, here is ARPN’s annual attempt to take stock of what has happened on the [...]
  • New Report Warns: Looming Copper Shortfall Could Delay Global Shift Away From Fossil Fuels

    The mainstream media and parts of the political establishment may just now have begun to realize it — but followers of ARPN have long known that our nation’s critical mineral woes are real, and go beyond the often discussed battery criticals (lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, and manganese) and include one of the key mainstay metals: [...]
  • Mapping of Domestic Critical Minerals Prioritized in Context of All-of-the-Above Approach to Supply Chain Security

    As the U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), another piece of legislation enacted earlier is beginning to bear fruit in the context of strengthening our nation’s critical mineral supply chains. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it had set aside [...]