In his testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this week, ARPN Principal Dan McGroarty warned of the challenges of our growing dependence on foreign mineral resources.
McGroarty contrasted his mineral resource outlook with that of the energy side, where we are witnessing the a remarkable resurgence and “emergence of a vibrant oil and gas sector after generations of energy dependence” that is transforming the U.S. into an energy exporter. He alerted Senators and attendees to the latest USGS figures, which show that we are 100% import dependent for 20 metals and minerals – up from 19 in 2015, and has us more than 50% import-dependent for 50, amounting to “roughly half the naturally-occurring elements on the Periodic Table.”
McGroarty said that:
“[A]t a time when we are engaged in a serious national debate on how best to revive American manufacturing, we are increasingly dependent on foreign sources for the metals and minerals we need for major weapons platforms, alternative energy applications, and all manner of high-tech devices from smart phones to smart bombs.
And this, in spite of the fact that the U.S. is resource-rich, blessed with known resources of dozens of the critical metals and minerals that are shaping our 21st Century.”
To reinforce his point, McGroarty cited Graphite and Manganese, key elements of Lithium Ion battery technology, Rare Earths, and Indium as examples of metals and minerals with broad military and civilian applications for which we are 100% import dependent. He further referenced Gallium, Rhenium, Tellurium, and Cobalt – similarly critical materials with military and civilian uses, as metals and minerals for which we are more than 70% import dependent.
While McGroarty also listed some positive developments, including process improvements and new extracting technologies “arising out of necessity – the need to efficiently extract minerals from low-grade deposits,” Senator Sen. Angus King (I-ME) called his testimony “very sobering,” and his colleagues declared that the issue warranted follow-up.
Here’s hoping that these assertions are more than paying lip service. As followers of ARPN know, there are ways to address the challenge and mitigate the problems associated with our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources. Among them are streamlining of our nation’s onerous and outdated permitting process, as well as tackling the “co-product challenge: The fact that dozens of the critical metals and minerals needed for tech applications are not mined in their own right – but are recovered as ‘by-products,’ or given their rising importance, ‘co-products,’ of major industrial minerals not often thought of as critical.”
However, actions speak louder than words. The global resource wars are heating up – and we cannot afford to sit idly by.
As McGroarty concluded:
“If we are serious about ensuring U.S. military power and reviving American manufacturing, we must reverse the deep dependency on foreign metals and minerals, and treat American resource security with the same seriousness – and one would hope, the same success – as our approach to American energy security.”
To read full testimony and watch this week’s hearing visit the committee’s website. Mr. McGroarty’s testimony starts 52:10 minutes into the hearing.