American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Groundhog Day All Over Again in Spite of Rising Pressures? USGS Releases Annual Mineral Commodity Summaries Report

    Earlier this week, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released its latest iteration of the annual Mineral Commodity Summaries, a much-cited report that every year gives us a data-driven glimpse into our nation’s mineral resource dependencies. ARPN has been reviewing the report on an annual basis.

    Last year, we noted that our coverage of the report coincided with Groundhog Day, February 2nd.  And just like in the Bill Murray classic movie, in which the clock jumps back to the same day all over again every morning, the Critical Mineral movie appeared to bring us back to a situation of ongoing deep dependency on foreign sourced metals and minerals every year – at least in recent memory.

    This year, we’re once again back with a look at the report, and, lo and behold, it’s Groundhog Day all over again – and by the looks of it not only with regards to the date, but also in terms of what we’re seeing, especially on one of the most telling charts of the report – the depiction of U.S. Net Import Reliance, or “Blue Wall of Dependency” as we have dubbed it based on the many blue bars showing our significant degree of import dependence.

    While there are some changes from last year’s report, the number of metals and minerals for which we are 100% import dependent stayed the same at 15.  The the number of metals and minerals for which we are 50% or more import-dependent has dropped slightly, after having gone up over the year before — with the new report pegging it at 49 versus 51 in 2023 and 47 in 2022.

    When cross-referencing the U.S. Net Import Reliance chart with the 2022 Final list of Critical Minerals, the United States was 100% net import reliant for 12, and an additional 29 critical mineral commodities (including 14 Rare Earth lanthanides, which are listed under rare earths) had a net import reliance greater than 50% of apparent consumption — a small drop by two over last year’s report.

    Once more, ARPN  can’t help but observe that the trendlines represent a stark contrast to U.S. import reliance for metals and minerals in 1984, when we were 100% import reliant for just 11 mineral commodities.

    A few changes for individual metals and minerals included in the report are notable and significant, particularly in the context of the accelerating global green energy transition:

    For the Rare Earths, a key group of tech metals underpinning 21st Century technology and the accelerating green energy transition, our import reliance had dropped from 100% in the 2021 report to “greater than 90%” in the 2022 report.  Last year’s report had, this number back up to “greater than 95%” and it remains at the same level in this year’s report, with rare earth concentrate being extracted in the U.S. currently sent to China for separation.  Once again, a single link lacking in a supply chain continues U.S. dependency.

    For Lithium, perhaps the most frequently cited battery tech mineral, and Cobalt, another one of Lithium’s “battery critical” peers, U.S. import reliance stayed the same at “greater than 25%” for lithium, while Cobalt’s number dropped from 76% to 69%.

    For Graphite and Manganese, both battery criticals – the USGS report shows both still pegged at an unchanged 100% import reliance, unchanged from last year.

    For Nickel, the final battery critical and a new element on the 2022 Critical Mineral List, import-reliance saw a small jump from 56% last year to 57% in this year’s report, after a more significant jump the year before (from 48% to 56%).

    Import reliance for Platinum represents one of the biggest changes over last year’s report, which had the metal pegged at 66%. That number increased to 84 percent in the 2024 report.

    Another change worth mentioning is the upward trajectory for Copper import reliance. In the 2010s, import reliance for Copper hovered around 30 to 35 percent, but in recent years, that number has gone up.  This year’s report has it pegged at 46%, up from 41% in the 2023 report.  This development that may be of particular relevance as in 2024, the U.S. Government Critical Minerals List is up for another update, on the 3-year timetable codified in federal law, and in spite of the metal’s inarguable growing importance in the context of decarbonization efforts and expert warnings that there may not be enough copper to meet decarbonization goals in the next few decades, the material has to date been left off the whole-of-government list. Congressional efforts to change this may have not succeeded in 2023, but the Department of Energy designated the material a critical material as part of its 2023 Critical Materials Assessment, further raising the material’s clout.

    As in previous iterations of the report, China continues to be the elephant in the data room. And against all pledges in recent years for the United States to reduce import reliance on supplies from China, the 2023 Mineral Commodity Summaries lists China 24 times as one of the major import sources of metals and minerals for which our net import reliance is 50% or greater (which is down by one over last year) – and for all the talk about decoupling supply chains from China and against the backdrop of the escalating trade and tech wars between Beijing and Washington (see our coverage here), this continues to be a concern.

    Like last year’s report, this year’s Mineral Commodity Summaries report features an expanded chapter on developments in the critical minerals realm, identifying trend lines, and supply chain security and U.S. government critical minerals initiatives as well as critical mineral investments.

    Last year we noted that “while the urgency of the need to secure critical mineral supply chains has registered with stakeholders over the past few years, USGS’s findings underscore once more that supply chains in the 21st Century are extremely complex and meaningful change takes time – and the developments of 2022 ranging from increased resource nationalism in the Southern hemisphere over war in Ukraine to rising geopolitical tensions have not made untangling supply chains any easier.”

    Since then, the stakes have only gotten higher as geopolitical tensions continue to rise and U.S.-Chinese relations appear to sour, but ARPN’s basic assessment of the situation stays the same.

    So, with the report revealing more of the same, and in true Groundhog Day fashion, we revisit last year’s post, in which we stated:

    “In Bill Murray’s movie, it took the protagonist several years to realize how to change behavior to break the cycle.  We know by now that to break our cycle of resource dependence, it will take a comprehensive ‘all of the above’ approach to critical mineral resource policy – and stakeholders have come to realize this and have increasingly embraced the concept.  We continue to stand by what ARPN’s Dan McGroarty stated during a congressional hearing in 2019 – ‘we can’t admire the problem anymore. We don’t have the luxury of time.’

    If we act swiftly and comprehensively, there may just be a chance that we will wake up twelve months from now not to another Groundhog Day, but to a 2024 Mineral Commodity Summaries that paints a picture of reduced resource dependence.”

    2024’s report was not the one to paint that picture, but in light of recent policy developments (see our recap of 2023 here and refer to page 18 – 22 of the report), there is still hope we will be getting closer by the time next year’s Groundhog Day rolls around.  Meanwhile, with apologies to Punxsutawney Phil’s cheery forecast of an early spring, ARPN is projecting another long winter ahead of Critical Mineral foreign dependency.

  • Tech Metals, the Building Blocks of the 21st Century, “Punch Well Above Their Weight” – A Visual

    It’s visualization time.

    And while your Thanksgiving-focused brain may trick you into believing the infographic you see here represents the proportions of turkey to sides, Visual Capitalist has put together an important reminder for those working in the realm of mineral resource policy, and quite frankly, everyone else.


    Using USGS data, the infographic (click here for a full-size look and the underlying data) visualizes the entirety of the 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2022 worldwide.

    Comprising 93% of the global mined total, the metals mining landscape is clearly dominated by iron ore. In 2022, 2.6 billion tonnes of the material were mined, with 98% of the ore dedicated to steelmaking.

    The second tier of the infographic comprises the industrial metals, which accounted for 185,111,835 tonnes of mined content in 2022, representing 6.5% of all metals mined last year.   Of these, aluminum accounted for nearly 40% of global production.

    Meanwhile the transformative tech metals – as ARPN has called them — the Battery Criticals and Defense Criticals – only account for less than 1% of all the metals mined globally in 2022.

    While this may come as a surprise to a layman – after all Critical Minerals are making frequent headlines these days largely fueled by the green energy transition and supply chain challenges exacerbated by geopolitical and trade issues – followers of ARPN well know what these key building blocks of 21stCentury technology “punch well above their weight” – both figuratively and literally.

    They say visualization — essentially seeing with the mind’s eye or hearing with the mind’s ear – can be a powerful tool to reinforce concepts that can help you “understand complex information and make better decisions.”

    Here’s hoping stakeholders seeing this infographic feel prompted to make “better decisions” to swiftly devise policies to incentivize these formerly minor metals and minerals that have such a major impact on the technologies transforming our world.

    Recent developments show – see our most recent coverage of China cranking its critical mineral export control ratchet here and here – our adversaries won’t wait for our food coma and tryptophan to wear off as they escalate the Tech Wars.

  • DoD Once More Invokes Defense Production Act Title III Authority for Projects to Strengthen Domestic Critical Mineral Supply Chains for Lithium, Nickel

    Against the backdrop of surging demand for critical minerals and increasing geopolitical tensions, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is forging ahead with its efforts to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base. The Department is stepping up its efforts to award funding for projects to encourage domestic development of the Battery Criticals (lithium, graphite, cobalt, [...]
  • New Report Predicts Supply Gaps for Four Battery Criticals Plus Neodymium and Copper, Calls for Significant Capital Investments Along Supply Chains

    A new report released this month by the Energy Transition Commission, an international think tank comprising a coalition of leaders from across the energy landscape committed to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century, has identified supply gaps for six materials key to green energy technology and calls for increased investment in the supply chain to stave [...]
  • WSJ News Explainer: Looming Copper Shortage Threatens Green Tech Transition

    While lithium remains the poster child of the green energy transition, stakeholders and media have started to pay closer attention to the other four “battery criticals” graphite, cobalt, nickel and manganese (for more ARPN coverage click on the respective metal) — and rightfully so. However, one of the key components of 21st century renewable energy technology, copper, often continues to fly under the radar [...]
  • Move Over, Lithium – Manganese Emerges as a Key Player in the EV Revolution

    When it comes to the metals and minerals underpinning the green energy transition, Lithium, not surprisingly has become the obvious poster child. After all, one of the key technologies in the context of the EV revolution is lithium-ion battery technology. However, as followers of ARPN well know, there is more to the story, and more than [...]
  • Independence Day 2023 — As We Celebrate Our Freedoms, (Resource) Dependency Still Looms Large

    It’s back to the grind. The parades, barbecues, pool parties and fireworks to mark this year’s Independence Day are over.  There’s much to be thankful for, especially at a time when the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine, now in its second year, reverberates around the globe and geopolitical tensions continue to mount. ARPN has always used [...]
  • India Ups the Ante in New “Great Game,” Releases Critical Minerals List and Joins MSP

    As nations all across the globe scramble to secure critical mineral supply chains against the backdrop of surging demand in the context of the green energy transition and rising geopolitical tensions, India is stepping up its critical mineral resource policy game. This week, the Indian Ministry of Mines released a comprehensive Critical Minerals List, consisting of 30 [...]
  • Namibia Joins Resource Nationalism Trend as Demand for Battery Criticals Surges

    Resource nationalism has arrived in Africa. After Zimbabwe banned lithium ore exports last December in a move that only permits concentrates to be shipped out, Namibia has banned the export of unprocessed lithium and other critical minerals, according to Reuters. The country is largely known as a source for uranium, but also has significant deposits of lithium [...]
  • Has the Green Energy Transition Ushered in a New Commodity Supercycle?

    If history holds one important lesson for us, it’s that most things in life are cyclical. Low tide and high tide, ups and downs, times of war, times of peace.  What holds true on a personal level, also applies to bigger fields like economics. As value investor and author Howard Marks phrased it: “Mechanical things can go [...]