American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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. 



  • A Visual Reminder Why China Matters in the Context of U.S. Critical Mineral Resource Policy

    Voters of Taiwan have spoken, and have elected the current vice president, Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate whom China most distrusts according to the Wall Street Journal, as their new president.  As Chun Han Wong writes for the Journal, his election “puts at risk a fragile détente between Washington and Beijing, threatening another flare-up between the world’s biggest economic and military powers.”

    ARPN has been keeping a keen eye on U.S.-China relations, but if you needed a visual reminder on why it matters beyond economic and military might, Visual Capitalist is here to help and has released another great chart depicting China’s dominance of critical mineral supply chains.

    Using USGS data, the expert chart makers have visualized China’s share of U.S. imports for ten critical minerals:

    Untitled 2

    Sometimes a picture says more than a thousand words, but if you need more context, Visual Capitalist also provides some additional context here, and points to USGS estimates that if China were to cut off 40-50% of rare earth oxide production, it could disrupt global supply to the point where it would impact U.S. defense systems advanced component suppliers.

    Followers of ARPN are aware of the increasing weaponization of trade in the context of U.S.-Chinese relations, and in particular the role of export controls, such as the ones imposed by China on germanium and gallium, as well as graphite and rare earths.

    As such, it comes as no surprise that U.S. policy stakeholders are taking a firmer stance on policies relating to China, particularly in an election year. See our post on the U.S. House vote to overturn the waiver of “Buy America” requirements for taxpayer-funded EV charging stations here. 

    However, these waiver requirements are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Mandates to source domestically or from allies can only work if there is a framework conducive to harnessing these resources, so this election cycle and beyond candidates and other stakeholders should prioritize strengthening domestic critical mineral supply chains where possible, and friend shoring, where necessary.

    As geopolitical flashpoints continue to increase, so do the stakes.

  • 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 [...]
  • Navigating Without a Map? The Challenge of Decoupling from China

    The long-planned and carefully crafted meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden Chinese President Xi Jinping near San Francisco may have gone off without a hitch, and defense dialogues between Beijing and Washington may have been restored, but analysts are not entirely optimistic that re-opened lines of communications will ultimately resolve deeply-rooted disagreements between the two countries on a [...]
  • Resource Nationalism Growing Factor as Nations Continue Quest to Reduce Reliance on China for Critical Minerals

    As Western nations continue their push to reduce their over-reliance on China for their critical mineral needs, some of the key players, including the United States and the European Union, have increasingly turned their eyes on Africa, a continent that is home to an estimated 20% of the metals and minerals required in EV battery [...]
  • Washington Post Editorial Board Calls for All-Of-The-Above Approach to Mineral Resource Security

    In another indication that awareness of the acuteness of our nation’s critical mineral woes has gone mainstream in recent months, the Washington Post’s editorial board weighed in with some thoughts on how to curb the risks associated with U.S. over-reliance on Chinese minerals. In a new opinion piece published last week, editors argue that while the environmental [...]
  • Rise of “Geopolitical Swing States” Underscores Need for All-Of-The-Above Approach to Mineral Resource Security

    In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, emerging supply chain challenges across all sectors, Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, as well as trade and geopolitical rifts between key global players deepening, many have asked whether the age of globalization, which followed the end of the Cold War, is over. With the world having become increasingly [...]
  • Chile’s Plans to Take Control over Country’s Lithium Industry Part of Larger Resource Nationalism Trend

    As the cliché goes, the global economy is inextricably interconnected.  Easy to say, but still surprising to see it unfold in front of us – especially when the nation illustrating the truism is the world’s 44th largest economy, with a GDP roughly the size of Indiana. But small size belies the multiplier effect of Critical Minerals, which [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • As Biden Administration Doubles Down on EV Adoption Push, U.S. Must Double Down on Comprehensive “All-of-the-Above” Critical Minerals Strategy

    The Biden Administration has announced the “most aggressive” plan to curb tailpipe emissions to date, with new vehicle pollution standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and announced by the White House last week. If finalized, the proposed rules would require automakers to reduce carbon emissions by 56% in their 2032 models compared to 2026 models.  The expectation is [...]