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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • “A” for Antimony — Defense Logistics Agency Zeroes in on Material Critical to U.S. National Security

    It may not make headlines as much as some of its U.S. Government Critical Minerals List peers, especially the battery criticals lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese, and as such you may not have heard much about it — but antimony has entered the spotlight and has garnered the attention of Pentagon planners.

    After receiving two grants from the U.S. Department of Defense Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to the tune of $200,000 to study the domestic production of military-grade antimony trisulfide in the context of its Stibnite Gold Project in Idaho in September 2022, mining company Perpetua Resources Corp. was awarded $24.8 million to complete environmental and engineering studies to obtain a Final Economic Impact Statement, a Final Record of Decision, and other ancillary permits on December 19, 2022.

    The $24.8 award was made through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Industrial Base Policy’s Defense Production Act (DPA) Investments program and the Air Force Executive Agent.

    Acknowledging the growing national security implications of rising critical minerals demand, the Department of Defense in recent months has stepped up its efforts to secure its supply chains, and the DPA Investments Program award to Perpetua Resources Inc. is the first critical minerals award using Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations.

    Why would, as InvestorIntel’s Dean Bristol phrased it, the Department of Defense start the “Invest in Critical Minerals Strategy with the letter ‘A’”?

    There is good reason.

    Writes Bristol:

    “Antimony trisulfide is essential to national defense as a key component for munitions and primers used in every branch of the armed services. Additionally, every military uniform is coated with antimony to provide fire protection and minimize infrared detection. It is also a useful material for the energy transition as a glass clarifier in solar panels or as a metal strengthener to wind turbine components.

    More recently, antimony is gaining recognition as a battery metal for its role in liquid metal battery technology. Yet, the U.S. has no domestic antimony production at present. Even more challenging, roughly 90% of global antimony production is controlled by China, Russia, and Tajikistan. Not exactly, the names you want at the top of your list of a ‘must have’ commodity.”

    Halimah Najieb-Locke, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Resilience put it in broader terms in the official DoD award announcement, stating that “[t]he Department’s DPA Investments Program is delivering on its core mission to restore domestic industrial capabilities essential to the national defense by enabling the warfighter,”and adding that “[t]his action reinforces the Administration’s goals to increase the resilience of our critical mineral supply chains while deterring adversarial aggression.”

    As the Pentagon points out, Perpetua’s “Stibnite Gold Project” produced antimony trisulfide for the defense industrial base during World War II and the Korean War. Operations were abandoned in the mid 1950s. Recognized as the “sole domestic geologic reserve of antimony that can meet Department of Defense (DoD) requirements,” the Stibnite Gold Project, according to Bristol, “ is designed to apply a modern, responsible mining approach to restore an abandoned mine site and produce both gold and the only mined source of antimony in the United States.”

    In keeping with the mining industry’s current efforts to sustainably green our future, the Project will “be powered by the lowest carbon emissions grid in the nation” and will supply a portion of the antimony produced at the site to U.S.-based Ambri, a company which has developed an antimony-based, low-cost liquid metal battery for the energy storage market.

    In light of the increasingly volatile geopolitical global landscape, it is reasonable to expect a stronger focus on the national security implications of mineral resource security on the part of U.S. stakeholders in the coming months.  ARPN will be keeping tabs on U.S. government awards to strengthen critical mineral supply chains for our national defense sector, as well as the ones underpinning our economic wellbeing and green energy future as they are announced.

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  • President Xi Jinping’s “Coronation” Adds Fuel to the Fire to Decouple Critical Mineral Supply Chains from China

    With pressures rising on critical mineral supply chains as nations rush to flesh out environmental initiatives before the COP27 climate change summit kicks off in Sharm El Sheikh next month, the stakes for the United States and its allies to “decouple” from adversary nations — in the new U.S. National Security Strategy, read:  China — may have gotten even higher with China’s Communist Party (CCP) confirming President Xi Jinping for another term in office this past Sunday.

    In what effectively amounted to a “coronation,” as the Wall Street Journal editorial board phrased it, the CCP’s move has effectively “confirm[ed] China’s combination of aggressive nationalism and Communist ideology that is the single biggest threat to world freedom.” 

    Mr. Xi’s confirmation to another term was hardly a surprise, but in his landmark speech addressing the CCP Congress, he emphasized the the need to increase China’s self-sufficiency in technology and supply chains, and reaffirmed China’s commitment to attaining control over Taiwan — a key point of contention in the country’s relations with the United States, which have already starkly deteriorated in recent years.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the “coronation” “all but guarantees an era of confrontation between China and the U.S.”

    Aware that “China has big footed a lot of the technology and supply chains that could end up making us vulnerable if we don’t develop our own supply chains,” as U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm phrased it earlier this summer, the United States and its partners have stepped up efforts to decouple from China.

    These may become all the more pressing in light of current fears, as Damon Kitney reports for The Australian, that China may seek to retaliate after the U.S. Department of Commerce announced sweeping limitations to semiconductor and chip-making equipment sales to Chinese customers this fall.

    Speaking to a private forum in Melbourne, earlier this month, Australia’s former Ambassador to the U.S. and federal Treasurer Joe Hockey told attendees:

    “In terms of critical minerals, my concern is – and there has started to be a few reports in the US suggesting this – is that after the midterm elections, and with a re-empowered (Chinese President) Xi Jinping, as of next year China will start to turn down the tap on the supply of critical minerals to the US and other places.”

    Followers of ARPN have long known that China is no stranger to playing politics with its near-total rare earths supply monopoly, and just last year, we saw the country threatening to limit rare earth shipments to U.S. defense contractors over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

    Thankfully, U.S. domestic efforts to bolster supply chains can be complemented with leveraging close cooperation with allied nations including Canada and Australia.

    Australia is ready to step up its rare earths game and challenge China in this segment.  As Phil Mercer writes for BBC News, Sydney“Australia, a superpower exporter of iron ore and coal with rich mining traditions believes it is well-placed to join the race to exploit minerals that provide critical parts for electric vehicles and wind turbines.” He cites John Coyne of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, who — while warning that China will not easily surrender its dominance of the sector — says:

    “Australia has the world’s sixth-largest reserves of rare earth minerals. However, they remain largely untapped with only two mines producing them.  There is significant potential in the establishment of multi-ore mineral-processing hubs in Australia. After all, there is no point in creating supply chain resilience for [rare earth] ores if miners must still send them to China for processing.”

    Mercer points to the U.S. Defense Department’s deal with Australian miner Lynas Rare Earths, which has been contracted to construct a REE processing facility in the U.S..

    In the same vein,  the Canadian government has inked an agreement with Rio Tinto to jointly invest $737 million to modernize the company’s Sorel-Tracy, Quebec metals processing plant, with  Rio Tinto’ chief executive Jakob Stausholm warning of the “excesses of globalization” in critical mineral supply chains. The move is said to strengthen “North America’s first production capacity for titanium metal, a lightweight but strong material important to aerospace and defense groups such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.” 

    Stateside, the U.S. Department of Energy has just announced the first round of funding under the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure act for projects aimed at “supercharging” U.S. manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles and electric grid — another important step in the decoupling from adversaries like China.

    With a newly-emboldened Mr. Xi reportedly seeing the possibility of a showdown with the West as “increasingly likely”in the context of his goal to “restore China to what he believes is its rightful place as a global player and a peer of the U.S,” as the Wall Street Journal writes, these efforts could not be more urgent.

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  • National Clean Energy Week Underscores Importance of Critical Mineral Supply Chains

    Underscoring the importance of the green energy transition to modern society, the U.S. Senate earlier this week passed a resolution, the U.S. House of Representatives  introduced a corresponding resolution, and several governors issued their own declarations designating September 26th through 30th “National Clean Energy Week.” National Clean Energy Week is billed as an annual week-long “celebration of clean energy innovation” to “help solve [...]
  • A New “Great Game” is Afoot – Are We Able to Keep the Focus on Diversifying Critical Mineral Supply Chains Away from Adversaries

    In a new piece for Canada’s Globe and Mail, columnist Robert Muggah zeroes in on the geopolitics of mineral resource supply, which have, in his view, triggered a new “Great Game” – a term coined by British writer Rudyard Kipling to describe the “fierce competition between Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia, both of which sought to control South Asia [...]
  • 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: [...]
  • As Stakes Continue to Get Higher, Critical Minerals Challenge Goes Mainstream with Realization Issue Goes Beyond “Battery Criticals”

    Supply chain challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine, rising resource nationalism in the southern hemisphere, and now China’s Xi Jinping doubling-down on its zero-Covid policy this week which may lead to more lockdowns with serious economic and trade consequences – critical mineral supply chains can’t seem to catch a break. As [...]
  • The Reorganization of the Post-Cold War Geopolitical Landscape and its Impact on Critical Mineral Supply – A Look at Copper

    Pandemic induced supply chain shocks, increasing resource nationalism in various parts of the world, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exactly one month ago have brought the stakes for securing critical mineral resource supply chains to a whole new level. The emerging geopolitical landscape has sent countries scrambling to devise strategies to not only ensure steady [...]
  • ARPN’s 2021 Word of the Year: Supply Chain

    ARPN’s Year in Review —   a Last Look Back at the United States’ Critical Mineral Resource Challenge in 2021 Well, two words, for the sticklers.  Merriam Webster may have gone with “vaccine,” but for ARPN, there was really no doubt. As one article put it, “2021 is the year ‘supply chain’ went from jargon to [...]
  • NIMBY vs. COP26 – On the Challenge of Reconciling Ambitious Climate Goals with Environmentalist Concerns

    At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland earlier this month, two major U.S. automakers, General Motors and Ford, signed a commitment calling on automakers to sell only zero-emissions vehicles by 2040.  Joined by Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz, as well as several countries, territories and fleet operators, the manufacturers [...]
  • Two For Four — New Critical Minerals Draft List Includes Two of Four Metals Recommended For Inclusion by ARPN in 2018

    With the addition of 15 metals and minerals bringing the total number up to 50, this year’s draft updated Critical Minerals List, for which USGS just solicited public comment, is significantly longer than its predecessor. This, as USGS notes, is largely the result of “splitting the rare earth elements and platinum group elements into individual entries [...]

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