The toilet paper shortage of 2020 may be a thing of the past – or perhaps an annual event… – but roughly a year and half since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers continue to feel the pinch of supply chain challenges across all industry sectors. For ARPN, with due appreciation of the dislocations and the very real privations they cause, this heightened supply chain scrutiny is serving up a “teachable moment:”
These challenges, coupled with the accelerating global push towards a net zero carbon future, have set off a global scramble for critical minerals and for strategies on how to best secure their stable supply across all levels of the supply chain.
While the United States took several promising steps culminating in the release of the Biden Administration’s comprehensive 100 Day Supply Chain review, policy makers in Congress are currently struggling to find agreement on how to advance meaningful critical mineral resource policy reforms (and stop unhelpful provisions) as part of larger federal spending packages.
But policymaking, like nature, abhors a vacuum, so even as U.S. lawmakers try to resolve their differences on Capitol Hill, we are learning that both the European Union and Australia are taking their own steps to bolster critical mineral resource supply chains:
- The European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) earlier this month released its Action Plan to secure access to Rare Earth Elements for European industry. Entitled Rare Earth Magnets and Motors: A European Call for Action, the report outlines current and projected European demand for Rare Earth Elements and steps which should be taken to secure their supply. The Alliance is working on a second Action Plan covering materials for energy storage and conversion, such as batteries, fuel cells, solar and hydrogen and other alternative energy storage and conversion systems.
- Meanwhile, Down Under, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced at the end of September that the country will set up a A$2 billion ($1.5 billion) loan facility to help finance critical mineral projects in the country and get them off the ground.
Of course, neither of these developments is bad new for the United States — especially since both the European Union and Australia are considered close allies, and, particularly the U.S. and Australia have recently reiterated their commitment to work together to secure critical material supply chains, both bilaterally and in the context of the Quad discussions.
However, both initiatives underscore the need for U.S. policymakers to put policy over politics and embrace a comprehensive “all of the above” critical mineral resource strategy, and take immediate steps to reduce our critical mineral import reliance and secure our supply chains from mining to materials processing.