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

    First up: a closer look at the Review of Critical Minerals and Materials,” an “interagency assessment for which the Department of Defense served as the lead” — not least because we were pleased to find ARPN’s call for an “all of the above approach” to mineral resource security echoed in the chapter. Rather than attempting a comprehensive full-chapter summary, we’ll highlight some key findings of interest to followers of ARPN:

    The Department of Defense defines strategic and critical minerals as “those that support military and essential civilian industry; and are not found or produced in the United States in quantities to meet our needs.”

    The agency notes that in the three decades since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the subsequent reorientation of global supply chains has fundamentally changed the landscape for strategic and critical minerals. With the rise of China, and availability of supplies that were previously locked behind the Iron Curtain, “[t]rade liberalization and global, just-in-time supply chains became the order of the day,” and the prioritization of economic efficiency over “diversity and sustainability of supply” contributed to a slow “erosion of manufacturing capabilities.”

    While supply chains became more complex, DoD laments that with the the impetus for national mobilization programs falling by the wayside “core capabilities at non-defense agencies to study, characterize and mitigate risk in the strategic and critical materials sector atrophied.”

    DoD finds that today’s concentration of global supply chains for strategic and critical materials in China — a reality the American public has increasingly become aware of in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, “creates risk of disruption and of politicized trade practices, including the use of forced labor.”

    In its assessment of mitigation strategies, DoD looks at various sources of supply and concludes that

    “[t]hough increasing recycling rates for strategic and critical materials is advantageous, recycling alone is typically inadequate to supply the volumes of material required for domestic consumption. Even if 100 percent recycling rates were achieved for a particular supply chain, increasing demand necessitates primary production.”

    The agency notes that “complex extraction, chemical, and refining operations, establishing strategic and critical material production is an extremely lengthy process. Independent of permitting activities, a reasonable industry benchmark for the development of a mineral-based strategic and critical materials project is not less than ten years.”

    In its risk assessment, aside from looking at “concentration of supply,” “skills and human capital development gaps” and “conflict minerals,” as well as trade and market dynamics, DoD also highlights the importance of “byproduct and coproduct dependency,” an issue complex of which followers of ARPN are well-aware.

    To alleviate risk, DoD suggests the following:

    “Reliable, secure, and resilient supplies of key strategic and critical materials are essential to the U.S. economy and national defense. The United States needs an ‘all of the above’ comprehensive strategy to increase the resilience of strategic and critical material supply chains that both expands sustainable production and processing capacity and works with allies and partners to ensure secure global supply.”

    Specifically, the agency recommends a strategy focused on the following:

    • Developing and Fostering New Sustainability Standards for Strategic and Critical Material- Intensive Industries
    • Expanding Sustainable Domestic Production and Processing Capacity, Including Recovery from Secondary and Unconventional Sources and Recycling
    • Deploying the DPA — specifically Title III — and Other Programs
    • Convene Industry Stakeholders to Expand Production
    • Promote Interagency Research & Development to Support Sustainable Production and a Technically-Skilled Workforce
    • Strengthen U.S. Stockpiles
    • Work with Allies and Partners and Strengthen Global Supply Chain Transparency

    DoD’s conclusion:

    “Today, at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, a new industrial era of low-carbon and increasingly energy efficient products is converging with autonomous and Internet-of-Things devices, which may lead to massive gains in productivity and economic growth. If the United States wants to capture the full benefits of this new era, we must also look to the sustainability of our strategic and critical materials supply chains. The Department of Defense can play an important role, but the Department cannot carry-out this task alone. This is a task for the Nation.

    The U.S. Government, collectively, has examined the risk in strategic and critical materials supply chains for decades. Now is the time for decisive, comprehensive action by the Biden-Harris Administration, by the Congress, and by stakeholders from industry and non-governmental organizations to support sustainable production and conservation of strategic and critical materials.”

    In the wake of several media reports that the Biden Administration would pursue a more selective strategy focused primarily on domestic processing rather than also supporting increased domestic production, it is encouraging to see DoD — and the Biden Administration as a whole — endorse a broad-based “all of the above” approach to mineral resource security. With the strategy now in place, ARPN will look for signs that the U.S. Government with transform those recommendations into reality, via policy, programs and projects that address the deep shortfalls in Critical Mineral supply.

  • Post-Petro Geopolitics in the Tech Metals Age

    The sands of geopolitics are shifting. As Anumita Roychowdhury, Snigdha Das, Moushumi Mohanty, Shubham Srivastava outline in a multipart series for India’s Down to Earth magazine, global competition, cooperation and conflicts are less about arms and oil, and more about critical technologies as the world is experiencing a “Fourth Industrial Revolution, an age of advanced technology based on information and communication, where artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and the internet of things are not just sweeping across businesses and societies but also evolving rapidly.”

    They argue that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated deployment of these applications earlier than anticipated. That, coupled with the fact that “50 per cent of the world’s GDP and half of global CO2 emissions now covered by a net-zero commitment” with close to 115 countries having pledged carbon neutrality by 2050, will have fundamental ramifications for geopolitics — the “scramble for natural resources to drive its energy requirements.”

    They point to a study by the UK’s major oil company, BP, which indicates that after more than 150 years of near-uninterrupted growth demand for oil may have already peaked and now “faces an unprecedented decades-long decline.”

    The massive momentum for the energy transition will, they say, “along with the need to attain technology supremacy, increase countries’ dependence on materials necessary for the technological marvels of tomorrow,” and will ultimately have us see global geopolitics “shift from oil producing countries to the rare earth and other critical mineral producing countries in the coming years.”

    Such are the consequences of the world having entered the “Tech Metals Age,” as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty phrased it in 2019. It’s a brave new world, and adjusting to the new realities and thriving in them will warrant a rethink — and a fast one at that. We may be leaving the Petro Age, but we can take a page from its playbook.

    As McGroarty told members of Congress during a virtual forum on critical minerals held earlier this month:

    “(…) if we entered the Tech Metals Age, we’re not lost without a map in this new world. We can take a page from the successful effort to reverse decades of dependency on foreign oil: The secret to achieving American energy independence? An ‘all of the above’ strategy that didn’t pit one form of energy against another, but embraced oil and natural gas and coal and wind and solar and hydro, biofuels and nuclear power. The common denominator: Energy produced in the U.S., by American companies and American workers, with American ingenuity and American investment.”

    That “all of the above” approach should extend both to resource production and processing, as well as policy, a view that was reinforced by the latest IEA report on a pathway to carbon neutrality by 2050.

    Here’s hoping that the Biden Administration — after taking several positive steps in the direction of “all of the above” — acknowledges that in a post-Petro Tech Metals Age, there is no room for simplistic “not in my backyard,” or “keep it all in the ground” mantras.

  • U.S. Over-Reliance on Critical Minerals — Are the Chickens Coming Home to Roost?

    The current coronavirus pandemic has shed a light on an inconvenient truth. We have become over-reliant on foreign (and especially Chinese) raw materials. As we previously outlined, “PPE has become the poster child, but whether it’s smart phone technology, solar panels, electric vehicles, or fighter jets — critical minerals are integrated into all aspects of [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for The Economic Standard: Red Swan – a Leaked 2010 Cable on Critical Infrastructure/Key Resource Vulnerabilities Provided Warning Signs We Failed To Act On

    In a new piece for The Economic Standard, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues that while the “intellectual shrug” of “who could have seen this coming” tends to be a common reaction to our new normal of sheltering in place and social distancing, there were warning signs for a coming crisis we failed to recognize for what they were, and act [...]
  • McGroarty for RealClearDefense: To Confront China, Restore Strategic Aluminum Stockpile

    In a new piece for RealClearDefense, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues that as it formulates a response to the current coronavirus pandemic,  the United States has a choice to make: Whether to allow this public health crisis spiral into a strategic resource crisis as well, or to confront China’s anticipated grab for market share head on [...]
  • COVID-19 Reveals Downsides of Globalized Supply Chains and Perils of Sole-Player Domination

    It’s like a scene from the movies. COVID-19 has not only taken over the headlines all over the world, it has slowed down economic activity, drastically scaled back public life, turned parents into homeschoolers, and sent financial markets into turmoil. It has also, as Forbes contributors Nives Dolsak and Aseem Prakash point out in a [...]
  • Are we Ready for the Tech Metals Age? Thoughts on Critical Minerals, Public Policy and the Private Sector

    Earlier this week, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty shared his views on the coming tech metal age and its policy implications at In the Zone 2019 – Critical Materials: Securing Indo-Pacific Technology Futures – a conference hosted in cooperation with the University of Western Australia to look at critical mineral resource issues through the prism of the [...]
  • Podcast: ARPN’s Dan McGroarty Discusses U.S.-Chinese Trade Tensions Over REEs

    As the world looks towards Osaka, Japan, where world leaders will gather for the 2019 G20 Summit and Ministerial meetings later this week, former Missouri Speaker of the House Tim Jones discusses the current trade conflict between the United States and China and the implications of the looming supply disruptions for U.S. domestic industries as [...]
  • McGroarty Warns of Real World Problem for 21st Century American Warrior

    In a new commentary for Investor’s Business Daily, ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty warns of “America’s unilateral disarmament in the resource wars.”  Invoking the world of Marvel comics, in which Vibranium is the imaginary metal used for Captain America’s shield, IronMan’s exoskeleton, and Black Panther’s energy-absorbing suit, McGroarty argues that the 21st Century American warrior (perhaps [...]
  • Space Force Plans Raise the Stakes to Overhaul U.S. Mineral Resource Policy

    Last week, the U.S. Government outlined plans to establish a sixth military branch – the United States Space Force.   According to Vice President Mike Pence, who announced the plans during a speech at the Pentagon, the new force would be led by a four-star commander, and funding in the federal budget would begin for [...]