American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Independence Day 2022 – Are We Getting Closer to Critical Mineral Resource Independence? — As Stakes Rise, National Defense Stockpile Could Receive Boost Via NDAA

    It’s that time of the year again.   We’re gearing up to celebrate the men and women who have fought for, and continue to safeguard our freedoms.  It may not feel like it when the cost for the average July 4th cookout has drastically increased, but we have much to be thankful for, particularly at a time when geopolitical tensions are mounting and the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine is being felt around the globe.

    From a critical mineral resource perspective, we at ARPN have always used the occasion of Independence Day to remind ourselves that “while we cherish the freedom we are blessed with in so many ways, we must not become complacent, as there are areas where we’re increasingly becoming less independent” — with our reliance on foreign mineral resources being a case in point.

    The good news is that on the back of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine and growing resource nationalism in the Southern hemisphere, stakeholders have begun to realize the extent of our mineral resource supply chain vulnerabilities, which significantly increased over the course of the past 65 years.

    A case in point:  the U.S. Congress is taking aim strengthening critical mineral supply chains via the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

    A provision in the Senate’s annual defense authorization bill, advanced by the Armed Services Committee earlier this month, contains a provision which would authorize $1 billion in funding for the National Defense Stockpile Transaction Fund for “the acquisition of materials determined to be strategic and critical materials required to meet the defense, industrial, and essential civilian needs of the United States.”

    The fund includes many of the metals and minerals considered essential to national defense supply chains, including rare earth elements, titanium, tungsten, cobalt and antimony, a metal we recently discussed as it has its own provisions incorporated in this year’s senate and house bills, which will need to be reconciled and voted on later this year.

    According to Defense News, the S1 billion senate-sought allocation would cover not only the $253.5 million requested by the Department of Defense (DoD)for FY 2023, but would also allow for the backfilling of multiple funding requests by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a combat-support agency of the DoD, which manages the fund.

    At its peak in 1952, the fund was valued at $42 billion in today’s dollars, but has subsequently been depleted to dip to its current level of $888 million, with lawmakers fearing the National Defense Stockpile becoming insolvent by FY2025 absent congressional action.

    With the end of the Cold War in 1989, Congress authorized the sale of excess stockpile materials with proceeds transferred to DoD or other federal programs.  However, as Maya Clark points out in a Heritage Foundation report from earlier this year, “the threat environment today is more similar to the Cold War than to the 1990s.”

    Clark cites the National Defense Strategy Commission which stated in a 2018 report that “[t]he United States confronts more numerous – and more severe – threats than at any time in decades.”  Fast-forward to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and other geopolitical challenges we’ve discussed over the past few months, and the threat environment is even more severe than it was a mere four years ago.

    The push to boost the United States’ National Defense Stockpile Transaction Fund ties into the overall realization that our nation’s critical mineral woes can no longer be ignored. Additional promising initiatives tying into an overall comprehensive “all-of-the-above” approach are currently being pursued by members of Congress as well as the Administration, and range from increasing cooperation with allies to secure critical mineral resources over leveraging “closed-loop” solutions to boosting domestic production and processing.

    However, as we have previously argued:

    “Those familiar with the inner-workings of Washington, D.C. know all too well that particularly in an election year policy efforts can quickly lose steam or fizzle over attempts to placate certain constituencies. Against all affirmations to strengthen domestic supply chains, the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) sentiment is still strong.”

    As followers of ARPN well know, the stakes are too high to let the momentum for comprehensive reform fizzle.

    At the beginning of this year, we posited the question of whether 2022 could be the year that strengthening tech metal supply chains can move from rhetoric to reality.  As we mark Independence Day 2022, with efforts galvanized by heightened national and economic security concerns, it certainly appears that we are getting closer to that goal.

  • New Law Underscores Real-Life Challenges of Untangling Complex Supply Chains

    As U.S. policy makers and other stakeholders scramble to secure supply chains to meet rising demand for battery criticals against the backdrop of a pandemic, geopolitical tensions and war, as well as rising resource nationalism in the Southern hemisphere, a newly enacted law threatens to make President Biden’s already ambitious push to require that 50 percent of all vehicles sold be electric by 2030 even more difficult to see through.

    The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act signed into law by President Biden on December 23, 2021 establishes “a rebuttable presumption that the importation of any goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, or produced by certain entities, is prohibited by Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and that such goods, wares, articles, and merchandise are not entitled to entry to the United States.”

    In short, this means that companies importing goods from China’s Xinjiang region to must provide “clear and convincing evidence” that no component was produced with slave labor.  According to Cullen Hendrix, a non-resident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the measure will in all likelihood“amount to an effective ban on imports from Xinjiang and products that have Xinjiang-produced elements in their supply chains,” sending businesses scrambling to find different sources of supply for materials and products.

    While a diversification of critical mineral supply chains away from China and other adversaries is long overdue, the enforcement of the new law underscores the real-life practical challenges associated with detangling complex supply chains, after having too many eggs in one basket for too long — particularly as demand for the metals and minerals underpinning the sought-after green energy shift has soared exponentially.

    Having underestimated the seriousness of our nation’s critical mineral supply chain challenges for too long, the United States must now play catch up – fast – and harness a  comprehensive “all of-the-above” approach across the entire value chain — from mine to manufacturing.  Fortunately, as the National Mining Association’s Rich Nolan pointed out earlier this year, “our challenge is one of policy, not geology. We have the resources to supply significant domestic production for many of the metals most essential to advanced energy technologies.” 

    Now is the time to kick our efforts to leverage them into high gear.

  • Geopolitics and Resource Realignment – China’s Alumina Exports on the Rise as Russia Seeks to Plug Shortfall

    On the heels of the coronavirus pandemic having exposed the West’s overreliance on Chinese supplies of mineral resource supplies, Russia’s war on Ukraine has set off a potential realignment of critical mineral resource supply chains that warrants attention. Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has largely isolated it on the global front both diplomatically and economically, and, [...]
  • Beyond the Rare Earths and Battery Criticals – U.S. Armed Services Committee Seeks to Address Supply Chain Challenges for Antimony

    Underscoring the growing awareness that our nation’s overreliance on foreign supplies of critical minerals underpinning 21st century technology stretches beyond the much-discussed Rare Earths and battery criticals lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, and manganese, the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services has released draft legislation to address China’s stranglehold on the supply chain for antimony. Used [...]
  • U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken Invokes Critical Mineral Supply Chain Security in Policy Speech

    In yet another indication that increasing demand and supply chain challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and war in Ukraine have raised the geopolitical stakes, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken explicitly referenced critical minerals and the United over-reliance on China both in terms of mining and processing in a speech outlining U.S. policy [...]
  • Let’s Onshore Semiconductor Fabrication – But Not Without Strengthening Supply Chains at the Source… After All, “Supply Chain” begins with “Supply”

    Your mind may not immediately jump to semiconductors when you think about national security, but “a steady source of uninterrupted, trusted chips is necessary for the security of the nation – supporting the readiness of the U.S. military and protecting critical infrastructure like the electric grid,” writes Zachary A. Collier, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management at Radford University and a visiting scholar [...]
  • “Critical” Without the Label? – A Look at Boron

    While critical mineral resource policy is finally receiving the attention it deserves against the backdrop of increasing supply chain challenges, a look at the materials stealing the spotlight would have you believe the list of metals and minerals deemed critical from a U.S. national and economic security perspective is much shorter than it is. The [...]
  • As Stakes Continue to Get Higher, Critical Minerals Challenge Goes Mainstream with Realization Issue Goes Beyond “Battery Criticals”

    Supply chain challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine, rising resource nationalism in the southern hemisphere, and now China’s Xi Jinping doubling-down on its zero-Covid policy this week which may lead to more lockdowns with serious economic and trade consequences – critical mineral supply chains can’t seem to catch a break. As [...]
  • The DPA in the Context of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and Chinese Strategy – “Back to the Future”?

    Stressing that the “The United States depends on unreliable foreign sources for many of the strategic and critical materials necessary for the clean energy,” specifically for EV and large capacity batteries, U.S. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate buildout of domestic supply chains via Presidential Determination earlier this month. While, as Reuter columnist Andy [...]
  • Another Look at Geopolitical Pressures on Mineral Resource Policy: China’s and Russia’s “No Limits” Partnership Spells More Trouble

    Earlier this month, during a meeting in Beijing hours before the kickoff of the Winter Olympics and against the backdrop of Russia amassing troops at its border with Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping issued a joint statement calling out what they see as “interference in the internal affairs” of other states by “some forces [...]