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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Rare Earths Issue Back in the Mix As Trade Tensions With China Escalate

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the inter-relationship between resource policy and trade policy. While more recently, we looked at tensions in our relationship with Canada over tariffs on aluminum and steel, other areas of concern are coming into focus.

    Mounting tensions over trade with China have brought the Rare Earths issue, with which ARPN followers will be familiar, back to the front pages of American newspapers.

    In a new two-part series for News @ Northeastern, Bill Ibelle argues that Rare Earth Metals are one of the “aces China holds in this high-stakes poker game,” and that U.S. stakeholders would be well advised to consider this leverage in policy considerations.

    Citing Northeastern University Distinguished Professor of International Business and Strategy Ravi Ramamurti, an expert in emerging markets, who says that “President Trump says he holds all the cards, but China’s monopoly on rare earths is one of the aces,” Ibelle writes:

    “A trade war could prompt China to cut off supplies of rare earth metals to American manufacturers. President Trump has already dragged rare earth elements into the conflict by including them on a list of proposed tariffs announced earlier this month.”

    While the tariffs must be considered part of President Trump’s stated – and well-intentioned- goal to decrease U.S. over-reliance on foreign metals and minerals, they are not without challenges. As Ibelle points out:

    “Efforts to find a new supply of rare earth metals, or devise technologies that supplant the need for them, are still in the early stages.”

    And, as ARPN followers know, China will not shy away from playing politics with its near-total supply monopoly  – and the risk of China cutting off supply for the materials the Trump administration is considering to target with tariffs — including, but not limited to REEs — looms large.

    To read Ibelle’s full piece, click here.

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  • “Critical Minerals Alaska” – Rising Demand and Supply Side Complications Combine as Catalysts to Establish Domestic Sources of Cobalt

    In his latest installment of “Critical Minerals Alaska” – a feature series for North of 60 Mining News that “investigates Alaska’s potential as a domestic source of minerals deemed critical to the United States,” Shane Lasley takes a closer look at Cobalt, one of the key metals underpinning the current EV technology revolution.

    Once an obscure metal you rarely heard about, this co-product of Nickel and Copper has recently been afforded “critical mineral status” – primarily because of its application in Lithium-ion battery technology. Meanwhile, U.S. import reliance for Cobalt is pegged at 72 percent, with recycling providing most of the balance.  This may change soon. Writes Lasley:

    “With at least one advanced stage exploration project in Alaska looking into the potential of producing cobalt alongside its copper, America’s 49th State could provide a domestic source for this critical metal.”

    In light of recent price surges for Cobalt, battery makers, among them Tesla, are looking to develop technologies that require less of the material. However, as Lasley points out:

    “Researchers and analysts do not see a scenario where the reduction of cobalt per battery can come close to offsetting the growing number of batteries that will be needed in the coming three decades.”

    Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts agrees, and in a recent tweet challenged Elon Musk to clarify what he meant when tweeting out his assumption that Tesla would reduce cobalt use to zero in their batteries in “next gen.” Moores believes it is “highly unlikely Tesla will be able to eliminate Cobalt from its supply chain entirely” and pegs the probability of such a scenario at one percent.

    With demand on the rise, complex supply chain complications have companies turn to the United States as a potential source of supply.

    As Lasley explains:

    “One of the difficulties is cobalt is seldom mined as a standalone metal. Instead, this increasingly needed battery metal is typically produced as a byproduct at copper and nickel mines. This means that any future cobalt mines would likely need to consider the economics of the moneymaking metal in the deposit.

    “This situation limits producers’ flexibility in adjusting the amount of cobalt mined in response to changes in demand and can result in periods of oversupply or shortage,” according to the USGS.

    While at lower prices, the cost to recover cobalt from copper or nickel mines may not have been economically viable, the demand electric vehicles are putting on this metal has companies taking a closer look at the feasibility of recovering cobalt exploring and developing copper deposits in the United States.”

    Further complicating the situation is Cobalt’s conflict mineral status, which has led to pressures on automakers to source the material outside the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from which a majority of Cobalt is currently sourced.  This, as Lasley points out, “could add to the catalysts to establish domestic sources of this critical metal.”

    To read the full piece, in which Lasley provides more detail on the feasible Cobalt development projects in Alaska, click here.

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  • USGS Scholars Provide Insights into Resource Interdependency and Conflict Potential in New Study

    The advances in materials science have been fundamentally transforming the way we look at metals and minerals – both from a usage, as well as a supply and demand perspective.  With that, the nature of potential resource conflict has also changed. As USGS National Minerals Information Center scholars Andrew L. Gulleya, Nedal T. Nassar,  and [...]
  • Urban Mining – No Panacea but Important Piece of the Resource Strategy Puzzle

    Advances in materials science continue to transform the way we use metals and minerals, and in doing so, also change the supply and demand scenarios for many materials. As we recently pointed out on the ARPN blog, demand for Cobalt has been soaring thanks to its applications in battery technology and the growing popularity of electronic [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Cobalt – A Critical Mineral Under Scrutiny

    A lustrous, silvery blue, hard ferromagnetic, brittle element, Cobalt’s physical properties are similar to Iron and Nickel. It forms various compounds, stable in air and unaffected by water.  Main uses include many alloys, including superalloys used in aircraft engine parts and high-speed steels, as well as magnets, and catalysts, to name but a few. It’s [...]
  • Why Tungsten should be on your critical minerals watch list

    In a comprehensive interview with The Metals Report, analyst Mark Seddon explains why Tungsten should be on people’s watch list, or, as the interview headline suggests: “Why you should look twice at an ugly duckling metal.” Like some of the other critical metals and minerals we have covered on our blog – Antimony and Cobalt come to mind – Tungsten [...]
  • Compliance with conflict minerals rule remains challenging for manufacturers

    Compliance with federal law and a new SEC rule regarding the sourcing of so-called conflict minerals — Tungsten, Tin, Tantalum and Gold from the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and surrounding regions — remains challenging. For U.S. manufacturers to navigate and properly follow the new guidelines is just one piece of [...]
  • Three Ts and related issues at MetalMiner’s Chicago conference earlier this month

    With the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo being a rich source of the so-called Three Ts – Tantalum, Tin and Tungsten – and these minerals having been used to finance the civil war in the region, “conflict minerals” are a hot-button issue. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and respective rules [...]
  • May’s Metals of the Month – the “Three T’s:” Tungsten, Tin and Tantalum

    After a few-month-long hiatus, it is time to bring back our Metals of the Month feature on the blog. In its context, we have been highlighting the breadth of our mineral needs and potential by showcasing the utilities of metals and minerals for which the United States is largely import-dependent, as well as associated challenges. [...]
  • Demand for Tantalum stays strong, while SEC conflict minerals rules don’t seem to affect import levels

    Our friends at MetalMiner recently went over import and export trends for Tantalum against the backdrop of the August 22, 2012 SEC conflict minerals rule and they enlisted Chris Grove, director of communications at Commerce Resources, a junior Tantalum mining firm, to comment on the numbers. MetalMiner found that in spite of new rules being [...]

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