American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • U.S. Military Faces Compounding Problems – Surging Tensions, Depleted Stockpiles, Critical Mineral Supply Chain Challenges

    In a piece that may not be hot-of-the press but is certainly as relevant today as it was in November of last year when it was penned – and ties into the context of ARPN’s latest post on NATO facing the critical minerals challenge –the Oregon Group’s Anthony Milewski warns that the U.S. defense industrial base is ill-prepared to support the current global rearmament trend, particularly with regards to critical minerals underpinning military technology and munitions.

    Milewski points to Russia having fired an estimated 11 million artillery shells in 2022, the majority of which can contain – depending on shell and manufacturing process – at least an estimate 0.5kg of copper. This, he says would amount to 5,500 tons of copper, or the equivalent of copper used in 1,170 wind turbines.

    Copper demand is already forecast to increase by more than 100% by 2035 with many analysts warning there may not be enough copper to meet decarbonization goals in the next few decades after years of underinvestment in the mining industry and falling ore grades.  And those projections, according to Milewski, do not account for surging military demand against the backdrop of increasing geopolitical volatility around the globe.

    Of course, copper is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. According to the National Mining Association, the U.S. Department of Defense uses nearly 750,000 tons of minerals on an annual basis – a number that was calculated around 2016/2017 at a time when the U.S. was not facing any major conflicts.

    Fast-forward to 2024 and the U.S. is supporting allies in the Ukraine and Israel while the situation in the Taiwan Strait looks increasing vulnerable.  Meanwhile, particularly ammunition stockpiles are running so low that NATO officials have warned that Western militaries are scraping “the bottom of the barrel” forcing NATO to provide Ukraine with supplies not from full warehouses, but rather “half-full or lower warehouses in Europe.”

    The issue is compounded by the fact that production time to rebuild weaponry stocks can take anywhere between three and 18 years, depending on equipment according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies – however that analysis focuses only on manufacturing and production times.

    As followers of ARPN well know, supply chains for the metals and minerals underpinning U.S. military technology and munitions are “extremely vulnerable” due to a perennial over-reliance on supplies from adversary nations, i.e. China.

    For all the talk about decoupling supply chains in recent years, the needle has not moved much, and the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries still has the U.S. 100% import reliant for 12 metals and minerals, while an additional 29 critical mineral commodities had a net import reliance greater than 50% of apparent consumption — a small drop by two over last year’s report.

    However, some important steps have been taken in recent years, and are beginning to bear fruit. Milewski lists several military budget ramp-ups to “try and resolve the massive shortfall.”

    As ARPN previously outlined, a notable example of such efforts is the series of (Defense Production Act) DPA Presidential Determinations involving specific Critical Minerals, beginning with President Trump’s July 2019 designation of the Rare Earth permanent magnet supply chain as being “essential for the national defense,” followed by President Biden’s designation of what ARPN calls the “Battery Criticals” as DPA Title III eligible in March 2022, followed by Platinum and Palladium in a DPA Presidential Determination in June 2022.  Earlier this spring, two further Presidential Determinations (February 27, 2023 Presidential Determination, and DPA Presidential Determination (2023-5)), effectively created an entirely new category of critical minerals – Defense Criticals” as ARPN calls them – by way of designating airbreathing engines, advanced avionics navigation and guidance systems, and hypersonic systems and their “constituent materials” as priority DPA materials.

    Those DPA actions, funded by Congressional appropriations, are now producing Department of Defense funded projects to encourage domestic development of these “defense criticals” and their supply chains.

    Milewski highlights the following:

    • Graphite: a $37.5 million agreement between the DoD and Graphite One (Alaska) to fast-track a domestic graphite mine;
    • Antimony: two awards — $24.8 million and $15.5 million — by the DoD to Perpetua Resources to secure a domestic source of antimony [an additional conditional award of up to $34.6 million under the existing Technology Investment Agreement was announced earlier this week];
    •  Lithium: a $90million agreement to secure lithium production between the DoD and Abermarle;
    • Nickel: a US $20.6 million agreement between the DoD and Talon Nickel to increase domestic nickel production.

    He closes:

    “We see the U.S. military shifting its position and capacity to secure its critical mineral supply gaining more momentum than it has for arguably the past 30 years. However, the U.S. military is America’s largest government agency, and it will take time.”

    However, with conflict brewing in many parts of the world, time is a luxury we do not have, and strengthening critical mineral supply chains should be a key priority for policy stakeholders in 2024.

  • A Key Challenge Facing NATO at 75 — Securing Critical Mineral Supply Chains to Build Strong Defense Industrial Base

    2024 marks the 75th anniversary of the NATO alliance, a transatlantic partnership and security alliance that has played a key role in the global security landscape over the last seven decades.

    Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an increasingly volatile geopolitical environment, experts argue that the alliance appears to have found a “new lease of life, with a broadened agenda that “now even includes critical infrastructure protection and climate security.”  However, there are a number of structural challenges that will need to be addressed for NATO to operate efficiently in the current context and successfully navigate crises as tensions around the globe continue to flare.

    Writing for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gregory Wischer zeroes in on the importance of critical mineral supply chains to sustain the alliance’s (and member states’) defense industrial bases and thus military power.

    Wischer outlines minerals have always played an important role in this context.

    While supply chain challenges are not new – Wischer points to increased manufacturing of bullets and artillery shells causing supply issues for copper and overall increased defense production triggering shortages of manganese, nickel tin and zinc during World War II– the U.S. (and in the post-WWII context the U.S. and NATO) used to navigate these waters from an overall position of strength with strong domestic or intra-alliance production and significant stockpiling of key materials. Fast-forward to today, stockpiles are depleted, and the U.S. and its allies rely on defense industrial bases with severe vulnerabilities, largely in light of an over-reliance on imports to critical minerals from adversary nations like China, key supplier of graphite, REEs and other battery materials, and Russia, from where much of the world’s aluminum, nickel and titanium are sourced. (see Figure 1 in the piece for a great visual historical perspective)

    Writes Wischer:

    Mineral supply chain risks are rising as the adoption of renewable energy technology increases mineral demand and as the rearmament efforts of the U.S. and allied militaries in support of Ukraine use more minerals. Coupled with limited production and stockpiles, the U.S. and other NATO militaries face three serious risks that could lead to mineral shortages: foreign export controls [see ARPN’s coverage on export controls here]; rising military demand amid great power competition, including the possibility of a U.S.-China conflict; and disrupted sea-lanes. The United States and other NATO countries must act now to address these supply chain risks.”

    Wischer suggests that to successfully address the challenges ahead, the U.S. and other NATO members should:

    -       increase their mineral stockpiles, prioritizing minerals used by their militaries,

    -       expand their efforts to increase domestic mining and recycling of minerals,

    -       prioritize  friendshoring production for minerals with limited domestic reserves,

    -       consider mineral substitution and rationing to alleviate the pressure on the production of certain minerals.

    There are other key structural challenges NATO faces at 75 that are worth discussing, but with the U.S. and NATO allies supporting Ukraine and Israel as tensions over the Taiwan Strait continue to flare, the time to take assertive steps to strengthen the supply chains for the metals and minerals underpinning the security of transatlantic alliance is now.

    ARPN will be taking a closer look at several key minerals, steps taken to bolster critical mineral resource security particularly for the military and associated challenges in a forthcoming post later this week. 



  • ARPN’s Year in Review – 2023

    – A Look at 2023 Through the Prism of Critical Mineral Resource Policy -  In the waning days of December 2022, ARPN and others were gearing up for a watershed year in the critical minerals realm – a year which could be a “breaking point if there is to be an EV revolution/transformation,” and one that would [...]
  • As Europe Votes to Further Critical Mineral Resource Security, U.S. Must Not Let Momentum for Reform Slip

    Earlier this moth, the European Parliament’s industry committee voted to endorse the EU’s draft Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA – see our coverage here) which sets benchmarks to increase domestic capacity for critical minerals extraction in an effort to reduce the EU’s over-reliance on supplies from China and other countries. The vote is a timely one and [...]
  • India Ups the Ante in New “Great Game,” Releases Critical Minerals List and Joins MSP

    As nations all across the globe scramble to secure critical mineral supply chains against the backdrop of surging demand in the context of the green energy transition and rising geopolitical tensions, India is stepping up its critical mineral resource policy game. This week, the Indian Ministry of Mines released a comprehensive Critical Minerals List, consisting of 30 [...]
  • Securing the Supply Chain for Graphite — the “Unsung Player” in Battery Supply Chain –“Herculean Task,” But One That Must Be Prioritized In Push Toward Net Zero Carbon

    Even before the Biden Administration announced the “most aggressive” plan to curb tailpipe emissions to date with new vehicle pollution standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month, automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers were facing difficulties getting both the parts and raw materials needed for their electric vehicle (EV) components. The newly proposed rules [...]
  • Looming Export Controls and Critical Mineral Over-Reliance Prompt Realignment Not Just Between China and West, But Also in Asia – A Look at South Korea

    As the Wall Street Journal reports, a new OECD study has found that export restrictions on Critical Minerals have increased more than fivefold from January 2009 to December 2020, suggesting that “export restrictions may be playing a non-trivial role in international markets for critical raw materials, affecting availability and prices of these materials.”   While this significant shift [...]
  • A New Chapter in the Tech Wars? Weaponization of Trade Back on the Menu as U.S.-Chinese Tensions Soar

    The world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Chinese drills in the seas and skies surrounding Taiwan wrapped up without further incident this Monday. Nevertheless, tension between the U.S. and China over the island, which some analysts consider “the most dangerous standoff between global superpowers, even as the war in Ukraine rages,” remain high, and a recent development in [...]
  • Bolstering the Domestic Supply Chain for “Battery Criticals” – A Look at Cobalt

     In this post, we continue our review of the “battery criticals” (lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese) against the backdrop of the just-released 2023 iteration of the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries.  Next up:  cobalt. With the material accounting for up to 20% of the weight of the cathode in a typical lithium-ion EV battery, cobalt was considered the highest [...]
  • 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 [...]