American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • EU’s Answer to U.S. Inflation Reduction Act Creates New Critical Mineral Category

    As ARPN outlined earlier this week, the European Union has dropped its response to the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act passed last summer: the just-dropped Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) paired with sister legislation, the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA), which aims to support investment in manufacturing capacity in ‘net zero emissions’ technologies in Europe.

    The CRMA not only seeks to streamline the permitting process for raw materials projects, floats the idea of a critical raw materials “club,” sets benchmarks for domestic resource diversification, and updates the bloc’s critical raw materials (CRMs) list.

    The CRMA also creates a separate category of “strategic raw materials” (SRMs) which includes a set of materials considered “of high strategic importance, taking into account their use in strategic technologies underpinning the green and digital transitions or for defence or space applications, that are characterized by a potentially significant gap between global supply.”

    The new classification of strategic raw materials includes bismuth (metallurgical grade), cobalt, copper, gallium, germanium, lithium (battery grade), magnesium metal, manganese (battery grade), natural graphite (battery grade), nickel (battery grade), platinum group metals, rare earth elements for magnets, silicon metal, titanium metal and tungsten.

    All of these, as Connor Watts notes in his discussion of the Act for RethinkResearch.biz, are included within the EU’s CRM list, which further included s antimony, arsenic, bauxite, barite, beryllium, coking coal, feldspar, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, hafnium, helium, heavy rare earth elements, light rare earth elements, niobium, phosphate rock, phosphorus, scandium, strontium, tantalum and vanadium.

    As ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty noted earlier this month, the U.S., albeit less explicitly, has also seen the creation of new categories of critical minerals in recent months, including most recently via the grouping of certain critical minerals in the context of yet another Presidential Determination invoking Title III of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to strengthen supply chains in February of this year, a grouping ARPN has dubbed the “defense criticals.” This development followed President Biden’s March 2022 designation of what ARPN calls the “battery criticals.” President Biden also invoked Title III for Platinum and Palladium in a DPA Presidential Determination in June 2022.

    The classification of a more narrow subset of critical minerals underscores their increased importance in the context of rising demand as geopolitical tensions soar and the green energy transition marches on, and will allow for more targeted policy approaches and specific measures designed to strengthen their supply chains — and ARPN will keep tabs on further developments in this space on both sides of the Atlantic.

    As for the EU’s two laws in response to the United States’ IRA, they will now head to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before they can be adopted and enter into force, and can either be strengthened or watered down along the way.

    These initiatives come at a critical juncture in time.  With geopolitical tensions getting higher and China and Russia cozying up to one another, the stakes are ever-increasing, but recent measures on both sides of the Atlantic show that the West has realized the urgency of its critical mineral conundrum.

  • 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.

  • 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 [...]
  • U.S. Department of Energy Announces Federal Grants to “Supercharge” U.S. EV Battery and Electric Grid Supply Chains

    The global push towards net zero carbon marches on, and with sales of EVs continuing to soar even as prices rise, analysts suggest that the “world could be nearing a critical electric vehicle sales tipping point, when volatile adoption trends are overtaken by mainstream demand.”  With skyrocketing demand, the mineral intensity of the green energy transition [...]
  • Not Just the “Battery Criticals” — Green Energy Transition’s Mineral Intensity Requires Broader Focus: A Look at the “Solar Metals”

    Recent media coverage might have you believe critical mineral policy only revolves around the “battery criticals”lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt and manganese, and maybe the frequently referenced, though still somewhat obscure rare earths.  However, as followers of ARPN well know, this is far from the truth. The New South Wales Department of Planning and environment has taken a [...]
  • Let’s Onshore Semiconductor Fabrication – But Not Without Strengthening Supply Chains at the Source… After All, “Supply Chain” begins with “Supply”

    Your mind may not immediately jump to semiconductors when you think about national security, but “a steady source of uninterrupted, trusted chips is necessary for the security of the nation – supporting the readiness of the U.S. military and protecting critical infrastructure like the electric grid,” writes Zachary A. Collier, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management at Radford University and a visiting scholar [...]
  • A Look Across the Pond: Material Inputs for Europe’s Quest for “Strategic Autonomy”

    It’s not exactly news to followers of ARPN that the global green energy transition will require vast amounts of critical minerals, however, against the backdrop of the raised geopolitical stakes in light of Russia’s war on Ukraine and rising resource nationalism in the southern hemisphere, new figures released by Belgium’s KU Leuven University underscore the [...]
  • Desperate Times, Desperate Measures? Persisting Semiconductor Supply Chain Challenge Warrants Comprehensive “All-of-the-Above” Approach – or, You Can Always Rip Apart New Washing Machines for Their Micro-Chips…!

    They say desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you needed any more indications that the state of supply chain security has reached crisis level, consider headlines like this one:  “Tech firms rip apart NEW washing machines so they can harvest their computer parts in a bid to beat the global microchip shortage”. The news [...]
  • “Supply Chain” Begins With “Supply:” Department of Commerce 100-Day Report Chapter on Complex Semiconductor Supply Chain

    Current news coverage may have you believe that when it comes to critical minerals, all we’re talking about is Rare Earths and battery tech metals, such as Lithium, Cobalt, Manganese, Nickel and Graphite. However, while certainly extremely important for 21st Century technology, these materials and the sectors in which they find key applications only represent [...]
  • Report from The Yukon: Critical Minerals Challenge Brings “Geopolitical Backwater” Into Focus

    As we outlined in our last post, the Biden Administration’s strategy to secure critical mineral supply chains, as outlined in its just-released 100 Day Supply Chain Report, embraces an “all of the above approach.” While strengthening sustainable mining and processing domestically, the Administration will also rely on partnerships with our closest allies — and of [...]