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A Theme for 2022: Strengthening Tech Metal Supply Chains — from Rhetoric to Reality?

 Happy New Year — and “shoutout to everyone who said they would start eating healthy in the new year and already decided to wait until Monday,” (i.e. today) as one Instagram influencer put it this weekend.

Here’s the thing with New Year’s resolutions – while the new year seems like the perfect time to proclaim ambitious intentions and very specific goals, most of us aren’t even able to follow through until February.  According to data gathered in 2018 by Strava, a social network for athletes, the second Friday in January is the “fateful day when most of our annual commitments start to crumble” — at least in the personal space. For 2022, that would be January 14.

It may be the narrow focus that sets us up for failure here.  However, we believe there is still merit in pursuing the “out with the old, in with the new” idea as it — after the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the twilight zone of a week in between — allows us to once more step back and reflect on the past twelve months.   And perhaps, rather than setting narrow goals, it makes more sense to start the new year with a theme — which gives you “a compass to work with rather than written instructions.” 

In our comprehensive overview of 2021 Year in Review post we took a last look back at the United States’ critical mineral resource challenge over the past twelve months. We concluded that 2021, following on the heels of a year that first exposed the extent of our nation’s over-reliance on foreign mineral resources, really was the Year of the Supply Chain — or, as one article put it“the year ‘supply chain’ went from jargon to meme.”  

Several commendable steps were taken in 2021 to address supply chain challenges.

Meanwhile, however, pressures will only continue to mount in the coming months, particularly with regards to the accelerating global pursuit of net carbon zero.  While stakeholders are increasingly realizing the urgency of the situation, many have yet to fully embrace a comprehensive “all-of-the-above” strategy to secure our supply chains.

Consequently, as Reed Blakemore of the Atlantic Council lamented in a 2021 study on the role of minerals in realizing US transportation electrification goals, current efforts “might pale in comparison to the scale and pace of mineral demand growth.” 

However, as we outlined in December:

“The challenge is too large to address piecemeal. While recycling, substitution, and partnering with allies should be part of any overall comprehensive strategy, strengthening domestic mineral resource development across the entire value chain must be a key focal point of our efforts if we want to ensure reliable access to the critical minerals we need to meet our current and future needs.”

In the waning days of 2021, apparel company American Eagle made headlines with the announcement that it had acquired the e-commerce fulfillment company Quiet Logistics, after purchasing a first logistics company in May of 2021.

If the supply chain shocks of 2021 are prompting jean companies to take charge of their supply chains, perhaps it is time for tech metal users to take note?

In light of the above-referenced challenge with new year’s resolutions, we’re going to refrain from formulating a set of specific measures we’d like to see taken this year at this point, but rather suggest a theme for 2022 in the critical minerals realm:

If “supply chain” could move from jargon to meme in 2021, maybe 2022 can be the year that strengthening tech metal supply chains can move from rhetoric to reality.