American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Critical Minerals and the National Strategy for the Arctic Region

    We’re “on a highway to climate hell.” The picture UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez is painting of current efforts in the climate fight is – expectedly – bleak. As such, it is no surprise that nations have been doubling down on their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the Biden Administration is no exception.

    Followers of ARPN have long known that the path to net zero leads through the critical minerals sector, and U.S. stakeholders have begun to realize that there is no greening our energy future without vast amounts of rare earths, the “battery criticals” lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel, and manganese (as well as scores of other metals and minerals once considered mainstay or niche).   These “super-criticals” – the five battery materials, plus a sub-set of five rare earths required for permanent magnets (neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, terbium and samarium) – comprise a group of 10 Criticals within the 50 Critical Minerals on the official U.S. Government list.

    In an increasingly volatile geopolitical environment, critical mineral security is more than just a gateway to the green energy transition, it is also a national security imperative.  While the United States is fortunate to have vast mineral riches beneath our own soil, we have fallen behind in the global race to secure supply chains and have yielded much ground to adversary nations like China who have cornered many segments of the value chain.

    First steps to decouple supply chains from China have been taken, but more must be done.

    Tying into this context, the White House has explicitly acknowledged the importance of developing critical minerals and cutting greenhouse gas emissions while promoting Indigenous rights, national security and the environment in its recently-released National Strategy for the Arctic Region — a region rich in metals and minerals to which the United States stakes its claim via Alaska, which in turn is home to many of the materials deemed “critical” by the U.S. Government.

    According to the National Strategy, U.S. Government agencies “will seek to strengthen the resilience of U.S. supply chains by exploring the potential for sustainable and responsible critical mineral production in Alaska while adhering to the highest environmental, labor, community engagement, and sustainability standards.” In the broader Arctic region, agencies “will work with our allies and partners—including through the potential use of relevant U.S. Government mechanisms and development programs, such as the Export-Import Bank, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, and U.S. Trade and Development Agency—to expand private sector-led investment and pursue sustainable economic development in the Arctic, including in critical minerals.” 

    While both U.S. Senators from Alaska lament that the National Strategy falls short (both point to the fact that recent Administration decisions regarding specific Alaska resource projects run counter to the expressed strategic goals), the fact that critical mineral security is considered a formal strategic objective, is a positive development on which stakeholders can build.

    With geopolitical tensions rising and climate pressures mounting, the focus on the Arctic — a region in which Russia accounts for half of the landmass — is both unavoidable and highly warranted.  The United States Government would be well advised to follow through on the strategic objectives outlined in the strategy, and harness the vast mineral potential it can unleash in Alaska.

    A case in point, as we recently outlined:

    “Right now, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. is 100% import-dependent for graphite.  But that’s not for lack of known graphite resources.  As USGS noted in February 2022 in its updated U.S. Mineral Deposit Database, Graphite One’s Graphite Creek deposit near Nome, Alaska is America’s largest graphite deposit.  If U.S. Government efforts to develop an American-based EV and lithium-ion battery supply chain have any hope of succeeding, looking for ways to help projects like Graphite Creek down the path to production will be, in a word…. Critical.”

    ***To keep up with Alaska critical mineral developments, be sure to follow North of 60 Mining News’s Shane Lasley, whose work ARPN has featured frequently.***

  • As Automakers Scramble to Build Out EV Manufacturing, Calls for Mine Permitting Reform Get Louder

    Against the backdrop of ongoing supply chain challenges around the globe, the urgency of untangling and securing critical mineral supply chains essential to a net zero carbon emissions future is becoming increasingly clear.

    Following on the heels of the Biden Administration invoking the Defense Production Act for the “Battery Criticals” – lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese – the energy provisions in the just passed Inflation Reduction Act are indications that this urgency has begun to resonate with U.S. policymakers, and sends a strong signal to investors that the U.S. is serious about “building the secure, responsible industrial base our economy and national security needs.”

    Faced with mounting pressures in the global push towards renewable energy, automakers have been taking steps of their own to build out American EV battery manufacturing.

    Toyota, which is building a cell-production facility in North Carolina, has announced an additional investment of $2.5 billion on top of the already committed $1.3 billion.  South Korean battery maker LG and Japanese automaker Honda have announced an investment of $4.4 billion into a joint venture in the United States, with mass production of advanced lithium-ion battery cells to start by the end of 2025.  Panasonic is considering a $4 billion investment into constructing a plant in Oklahoma, and north of the border, recent public filings indicate that Tesla is looking to set up a new advanced manufacturing facility in Canada.

    Friends of ARPN can guess what comes next.  As the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Wilmot wrote last week, “[a]ll this means car makers can perhaps start to relax where they will get EV batteries. The tougher question now is where they will get battery materials.” He adds: “[a]nother wave of investment in inputs such as processed lithium and nickel needs to follow – and with a new urgency.”

    As ARPN already pointed out, the Inflation Reduction Act’s requirement that will exclude EVs with material inputs from “foreign entities of concern” from eligibility for the $7,500 tax credit included in the bill, poses a serious challenge because the auto industry is so heavily reliant on battery materials and components from China.  With China being the global hub for battery-mineral refining, says Wilmot, “this will be hard for automakers to work around.”

    Not surprisingly, automakers are increasingly lobbying governments to reform the U.S. mine permitting system.  Metal Tech News’s Shane Lasley points to a recent letter penned by Ford Motor Company’s chief government affairs officer Christopher Smith to the U.S. Department of Interior, in which he laments that “[t]oday’s lengthy, costly and inefficient permitting process makes it difficult for American businesses to invest in the extraction and processing of critical minerals in the United States.” Smith calls on the federal government to alleviate the challenges within the U.S. mine permitting framework, which Ford considers “unacceptable and well beyond the requirements facing Australian and Canadian companies, where responsible mining is a given and a prerequisite for obtaining mining permits.”

    However, this is far from the only challenge automakers and the mining sector are faced with in their quest to support the green energy transition, as an inter-departmental “tug-o-war” is adding fuel to the fire.  As Lasley writes in an equally insightful piece:

    “While the departments of Commerce, Defense, and Energy are forging ahead with programs and investments aimed at ensuring America has the minerals and metals needed to support the clean energy objectives outlined by the White House, and enabled by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, DOI is pumping the breaks on a domestic project that would produce the requisite raw materials.

    The Interior Department’s yanking of the permits to build a road that would connect the rich deposits of cobalt, copper, zinc, and other metals in Alaska’s Ambler Mining District to markets demanding sustainable supplies of these mined materials underscores a disconnect within the Biden Administration.”

    Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy had lamented DOI’s lack of acknowledgement of Alaska as a potential source and blasted the Ambler Mining District decision and called for federal permitting reform during the recent critical minerals summit held in Alaska, which we covered here:

    “This administration must speak with one voice. It wants critical minerals, or it doesn’t. It wants the lower energy prices, or it doesn’t.  It wants to create jobs in the U.S. or it doesn’t.  It wants to protect the environment or it doesn’t. It cares about human rights, or it doesn’t. (…) The disjointed federal permitting process doesn’t just hurt Alaskans (…), it hurts every industry, and every state. (…) 

    If we set ambitious goals for EVs or renewables without permitting the production of critical minerals here, those minerals will still be produced, they just won’t be produced in here in America or Alaska, they’ll be produced by child labor, potentially, they’ll be produced without environmental standards, potentially, they’ll be produced at the expense of the American worker, to the benefit, potentially, of our adversaries.”  

    As for the IRA bill, the Wall Street Journal points out“[h]ow far and how fast EV and battery makers need to scramble [to meet the law’s requirements] depends on how the Treasury Department interprets the Inflation Reduction Act. This process, which will be subject to intense lobbying over the coming months, could weaken some of the strings attached.”

    However, the pressure to diversify supply chains away from adversaries is here to stay – and with that, the federal government will have to take steps to foster greater predictability in the mining sector to unleash the United States’ mineral potential.  As U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski told attendees of last month’s Alaska critical minerals summit, the rest of the world won’t wait for us, and “other countries” are moving now to implement “longer-term policies that allow them to focus on what it means to be sticking with a policy, and a view, and a vision towards dominance.”

  • Alaska Critical Minerals Conference: Stakeholders Welcome Progress Thus Far, Call for Federal Permitting Reform and More Predictability in the Mining Space

    Just as a new federal law – the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 – may send a much-needed investment signal to the underdeveloped critical mineral supply chains for EVs and other 21st  century technologies, many of which are rife with underinvestment, political risk and poor governance – lawmakers and policy experts gathered for a two-day two-day conference hosted by the [...]
  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty to Discuss Critical Mineral Policy at Alaska Critical Minerals Conference

    Mere months after widespread lockdowns in China over coronavirus outbreaks, factories in Sichuan province are shutting down again – this time over an intense heatwave and drought across China’s south.  Meanwhile, Russia’s war on Ukraine shows no signs of slowing down, and tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan continue to flare. As the [...]
  • U.S. Senator and AK Governor for The Hill: With China Having Taken Control of Critical Mineral Supply Chains, We Need to Act Now

    Beijing’s threat to withhold potentially life-saving medical supplies and medications in the middle of a global pandemic, during which China has “taken control of [respective] supply chains around the world as part of its quest for global domination,” were a wake up call, write U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) in [...]
  • EPA Withdrawal of Preemptive Veto of Alaska Strategic Mineral Mining Project Positive Development for Due Process

    Amidst a recent uptick in government actions aimed at increasing domestic mineral resource development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this month withdrew its preemptive proposed determination to restrict use of one of the largest domestic deposits of key strategic mineral resources (Copper, Molybdenum, Gold, Silver and Rhenium) in Southwestern Alaska.  As followers of [...]
  • Resource Alert:  North of 60 Mining News Has Launched “Critical Minerals Alaska” Magazine and Dedicated Webpage

    Over the past few weeks, China’s threat to play the “rare earths card” has generated quite a buzz and, along with growing concerns over supply chains for battery tech, has directed much-needed attention to our nation’s over-reliance on foreign mineral resources.  As followers of ARPN know, many of these issues are in fact home-grown, as the United [...]
  • The “Indispensable Twins” of Critical Minerals – Niobium and Tantalum

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on what USGS has dubbed the “indispensable twins” – Niobium and Tantalum. Both share “nearly indistinguishable physical and chemical properties” and are “critical to the defense, energy and high-tech sectors.”  Meanwhile, neither Niobium nor Tantalum are mined in the United States, so their inclusion [...]
  • Critical Minerals Alaska – Rhenium Riches in Alaska Could Help Alleviate Supply Issues

    The BBC has dubbed Rhenium — another metal included in the Department of the Interior’s Final List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy — a “super element” with standout properties that can be likened to “alien technology.” Thus, it comes as no surprise that Shane Lasley, writing for North of 60 Mining [...]
  • Beyond Golf Clubs and Aircraft – “Critical Minerals Alaska” Zeroes in on Titanium 

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of Sixty Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on Titanium – an “abundant element that has become an important industrial commodity only within the past 150 years,” according to USGS. As Lasley writes, “Titanium conjures images of the durable and lightweight metal used to build aircraft, replacement hips, [...]