American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Summer Critical Mineral Import Data Provides Fresh Impetus for Comprehensive Resource Policy Reform

    In the wake of several eye-openers regarding our nation’s critical mineral supply chain woes — the coronavirus pandemic, increasing trade tensions with adversary nations like China, and reports underscoring the mineral intensity of our green energy future — the bipartisan infrastructure package passed by the U.S. Senate before the August recess contained a series of provisions that, in the words of analyst Andy Home, represent “undoubtedly good news for industrial metals” and mark a “broader investment drive across the full length of the metallic supply chain.”

    As lawmakers continue their work on the package, new data analysis provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence underscores why efforts to boost U.S. control of critical mineral supply chains and “overcoming reliance on other nations not only for supplies but for infrastructure and processing capacity,” must be prioritized:

    According to data collected earlier this summer, “U.S. imports of critical minerals increased 7.9% in the second quarter on a year-over-year basis, while staying relatively flat quarter over quarter.”

    S&P Global Market Intelligence notes that “the volume of critical minerals flowing into the country in the first half of 2021 surpassed the 316,108 tonnes imported in the first six months of 2020 by 41,209 tonnes.”

    As S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Camille Erickson argues, “China maintains a firm grip on the processing of several critical minerals.”  She points to International Energy Agency that have China processing roughly 90% of global REE supply (and 50% to 70% of global Lithium and Cobalt supply).  Erickson further notes a lack of “sufficient midstream infrastructure in the U.S.,” which “means critical minerals often must undergo various chemical processes — such as concentrating, refining and smelting — elsewhere.”

    While the bipartisan infrastructure package as passed by the U.S. Senate is looking to “bring back some of the crucial midstream components that we are very much lacking here in the U.S. and North America more broadly,” the American Exploration & Mining Association would like to see an even bigger, more comprehensive push, arguing (on Twitter) that “[e]fforts to rebuild the mineral supply chain are incomplete.  We need more mines and smelters, but we need efficient permitting too.”

    Here’s hoping that lawmakers — refreshed from their August recess — do justice to the “all of the above” approach to mineral resource policy as embraced by the Biden Administration in its 100-Day Supply Chain Review (see our report on it here).

    As critical minerals expert Morgan Bazilian recently wrote in a piece for The Hill, in which he embedded his call for a comprehensive mineral resource policy approach into the green energy transition context:

    “If the U.S. wants to get out from under China’s thumb while avoiding conflict, then it must create effective mineral policy by rebuilding innovation capabilities, partnering with industry, and leveraging the government’s role as a market actor. (…) As a nation we have spent so much time preparing for a better tomorrow that we may have neglected to get the materials we will need to actually build it. If the U.S. wants to take direct action to fight climate change and save the lives of its people, then it will need the mining and metals industry.”

  • House Armed Services Committee’s Bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force Releases Findings and Recommendations

    On the heels of the recently-released White House 100-Day Supply Chain report, momentum to strengthen U.S. supply chains is building.

    On July 22, 2021 the House Armed Services Committee’s bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force, chartered in March of 2021 to “review the industrial base supply chain to identify and analyze threats and vulnerabilities,” released its final report, which includes key findings and policy recommendations.

    Co-chaired by Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), the task force convened a series of round tables with with experts and stakeholders to identify

    “1) the processes by which DOD analyzes supply chain vulnerabilities and develops mitigation strategies; 

    (2) DOD’s processes to prioritize and mitigate identified vulnerabilities; and 

    (3) the steps Congress and others can take to help build resilience against future shocks to the supply chain, both in the near term with respect to selected cases, and over the longer term, leveraging the lessons learned from the initial actions.”

    The report includes six legislative recommendations task force members will submit as amendments for the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) full committee mark up.

    Among them, most notably from an ARPN perspective, were the following:

    “DOD must treat supply chain security as a defense strategic priority. Although DOD conducts assessments for critical supplies and is required by section 2509 of title 10, United States Code, to establish a framework to mitigate risk in the acquisition process, it lacks a comprehensive strategy for the entire supply chain across the Department and the services. The Task Force recommends a statutory requirement for a Department-wide risk assessment strategy and system for continuous monitoring, assessing, and mitigating risk in the defense supply chain.  

    DOD (and the United States more broadly) needs to reduce reliance on adversaries for resources and manufacturing. The defense supply chain presents a national security risk: a significant amount of material in the Defense Industrial Base is sole-sourced from the People’s Republic of China. With the requirement for a strategic framework and illuminating the supply chain, the Department must use this information to work with industry, allies, and partner nations to lessen the reliance on the People’s Republic of China. The Task Force recommends a statutory requirement to identify supplies and materials for major end items that come from adversarial nations and implement a plan to reduce reliance on those nations.

    DOD should strengthen the ability to leverage close ally and partner capabilities through the National Technology and Industrial Base (NTIB). The NTIB is an underutilized forum and should be leveraged to shape policy and partnerships with allies. To reduce reliance on adversaries and expand partnerships, the NTIB will need to help shape global policy. The Task Force recommends updating statutory authority to emphasize the value of a broad collaboration with the NTIB allies beyond acquisition, to strengthen the alliance; directing the NTIB Council to identify particular policies and regulations that could be expanded to the NTIB allies, in order to use the NTIB as a test bed for closer international cooperation and supply chain resiliency; and authorizing an NTIB “International Council” to harmonize industrial base and supply chain security policies. The NTIB countries and other close allies and partners undoubtedly face similar challenges with over-reliance on Chinese and Russian suppliers. Effective policy to reduce the associated supply chain vulnerabilities requires meaningful, sustained dialogue and collaboration. Accordingly, the Task Force encourages the Department’s leaders to prioritize supply chain security policy in bilateral and multilateral discussions. 

    DOD should deploy the full range of American innovation to secure the supply chains involving rare earth elements. This includes diversifying the source of rare earths, minimizing dependence on sources and processes in the People’s Republic of China, seeking global solutions by seeking agreements and collaboration with allies and partners, and increasing relevant capability in the United States. Developing alternative technologies and methods for extraction, processing, and recycling in support of diversification is critical. The Task Force notes research and development is funded by the Department of Energy and Department of Interior and recommends a requirement for the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with both the Secretaries of Energy and Interior to ensure research and development includes the DOD’s interest.”

    The Task Force stresses the common ground between their own findings and recommendations and those included in the Administration’s 100-Day Supply Chain report, including improved communication between stakeholders, and leveraging cooperation with allies and partners, in particular in the framework of the NTIB. From the task force report:

    “Where on-shoring is not feasible or not advantageous, the authors encourage resilience through ‘ally and friend-shoring,’ a construct the Task Force Members endorse. The United States can expand the capacity and capability of the domestic DIB.”

    Against mounting pressures, there is hope that the House task force report, coupled with the findings of the White House’s 100-Day Supply Chain report, will create sufficient momentum to translate recommendations into actual policy, programs and projects to address the nation’s deep shortfalls in Critical Mineral supply.

    The full task force report – including detailed findings and recommendations – can be found here.

    And for a handy compilation of our recent coverage of the 100-Day Supply Chain report, click here.

  • The Mineral Intensity of a Carbon-Neutral Future – A Look at Copper

    Amidst the global push towards carbon neutrality, “Critical Minerals” has become a buzzword.  As the green energy transition has gone mainstream and electric vehicles and renewable energy sources dominate the news cycle, so has talk about growing demand for some of the specialized materials underpinning this shift — most notably the Rare Earths, and the battery [...]
  • “Supply Chain” Begins With “Supply:” Department of Commerce 100-Day Report Chapter on Complex Semiconductor Supply Chain

    Current news coverage may have you believe that when it comes to critical minerals, all we’re talking about is Rare Earths and battery tech metals, such as Lithium, Cobalt, Manganese, Nickel and Graphite. However, while certainly extremely important for 21st Century technology, these materials and the sectors in which they find key applications only represent [...]
  • 100 Day Supply Chain Report Inspires New Developments in Critical Minerals Realm

    Released at the beginning of June, the White House’s 100 Day Supply Chain report assessed risks and vulnerabilities in the supply chains for four key industrial sectors, making recommendations on how to alleviate them appears to have already inspired several new developments in the critical minerals realm: As the Australian Financial Review’s U.S. correspondent Matthew [...]
  • The Mining Industry is Ready to Strengthen American Supply Chains

    With the release of its 100-Day Supply Chain Report, the Biden Administration has sent a strong signal that it is serious about stepping up U.S. efforts to secure domestic supply chains — especially for the four areas covered by the report: semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging; pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), and, of particular [...]
  • DoE Chapter of 100-Day Supply Chain Report Calls for Immediate Investment in “Scaling up a Secure, Diversified Supply Chain for High-Capacity Batteries Here at Home”

    The Biden Administration made clear early on that it is committed to pursuing a low-carbon energy future, and battery technology is a key driver underpinning the shift away from fossil fuels. Just a few weeks ago, when touting his infrastructure package at Ford’s electric vehicle plant in Dearborn, President Joe Biden declared: “The future of [...]
  • Biden Administration 100-Day Supply Chain Report Holds Surprise for Some: And the Winner is… Nickel?

    Critical Minerals policy-wonks:  if you wagered that Rare Earths would be the leading elements in the Biden 100-Day Report in terms of mentions, you’d be wrong. That’s right — we took a look at the Biden Administration’s just-released 100-day supply chain assessment, and created a word cloud based on the number of mentions (footnotes included) of [...]
  • DoD-led “100-Day” Supply Chain Assessment Concludes We Need “All of The Above” Approach to Critical Mineral Resource Security

    Last week, the Biden Administration released the findings of its 100-day supply chain review initiated by Executive Order 14017 – “America’s Supply Chains.” From a Critical Minerals perspective, there is a lot to unpack in the 250-page report, and we’ll be digging into the various chapters and issues over the next few days and weeks. [...]
  • Decarbonization Goals Expose Bottleneck in Critical Mineral Supply Chains — Us

    [Note from Sandra Wirtz: As ARPN digs through the White House Supply Chain Report, we are completing the week with posts that “preview” metals and minerals prominently mentioned in the Report – beginning with copper.] “The road to decarbonisation will be paved with copper (…) and a host of other minerals, all critical for electric [...]