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

  • HOMEPAGE >> BLOG >> Resource Policy’s Butterfly Effect - South Africa’s Landownership Issues to Cripple U.S. Defense Arsenal?

Resource Policy’s Butterfly Effect – South Africa’s Landownership Issues to Cripple U.S. Defense Arsenal?

Can the taking of a farm in South Africa cripple the American defense arsenal?  We’re about to find out – says ARPN’s principal Daniel McGroarty in a new piece for Investor’s Business Daily.

Invoking the so-called “Butterfly Effect” – an expression used to describe the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere -, McGroarty argues that

“[e]xpropriation of a white-owned farm in South Africa can lead to civil strife that could disrupt mining in that resource-rich country, depriving the U.S. and its allies of metals and minerals supply, crippling defense preparedness by sidelining advanced weapons platforms – while strengthening adversaries like China and Russia, which happen to possess the very metals and minerals South Africa mines and America needs.

So like the butterfly wings that trigger a tsunami, South Africa’s expropriation crisis could disrupt U.S. defense readiness, and hand our global adversaries dangerous new leverage.”

The 2014 labor unrest that disrupted Platinum Group Metal (PGM) production for a certain period served as a recent warning – which, among other issues led the U.S. Geological Survey to use South Africa as a case in point to underscore the “risk associated with high production concentration in a single country” in its “Summary of Methodology and Background Information” for DOI’s 2018 Critical Minerals List.

The recent racial tensions only exacerbate said risk.  McGroarty explains how a potential faltering of South African supply would affect U.S. defense contractors and ultimately U.S. national security:

“What metals and minerals do U.S. defense contractors source from South Africa?  The PGMs, used in jet turbine blades and high-performance circuit boards.  Chromium, used as a superalloy in jet fighters and tanks.  Manganese, required for National Defense Stockpile material electrolytic manganese metal, for which the U.S. is 100% foreign import-dependent.  Titanium used in jet fighter air frames, and vanadium, used in super-conductor electromagnets like the ones needed for the U.S. Navy’s new railgun.

You can find all of these metals and minerals on the recently published U.S. Government Critical Minerals List, deemed essential “to our national economy and national security.”  And the U.S. is import dependent — in some instances 100% dependent — for all of them.

Here’s where the impact intensifies. If South African supply falters, what are the alternatives for the U.S. defense complex?  For chromium, we can turn to Russia. For PGMs, Russia again. For manganese, China is the global leader. For titanium and vanadium, it’s China or Russia.

In other words, civil unrest, with the potential for civil war, in South Africa may well increase U.S. critical mineral dependence on China and Russia — nations recognized as U.S. adversaries in defense doctrine, and presently subject to sanctions and trade tariffs.”

As followers of ARPN well know, many of our mineral resource dependencies are largely home-grown, as the U.S. is home to known resources of all of the metals and minerals referenced as “at risk” above and many more.

Laments McGroarty:

“As a nation, we’ve simply slipped into a post-industrial mindset that we don’t need to be a primary producer, exacerbated by a mine permitting process that is among the lengthiest in the world. Our manufacturers — including our defense industrial base weapons builders — simply buy what we need when we need it, from wherever it’s mined. And it’s worked.

Until now that is, as the butterfly’s wings are flapping in South Africa.”

The choice is ours – are we going to sit idly by and hope that China and Russia won’t “exploit any metals vulnerabilities that emerge” from South Africa’s land ownership issues, or are we going to enact the reforms necessary to “encourage domestic production of the metals and minerals we need to support our 21st Century lifestyles, and the advanced weapons platforms that keep us secure.”

Click here to read the full piece.