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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 100 Day Supply Chain Report Inspires New Developments in Critical Minerals Realm

    Released at the beginning of June, the White House’s 100 Day Supply Chain report assessed risks and vulnerabilities in the supply chains for four key industrial sectors, making recommendations on how to alleviate them appears to have already inspired several new developments in the critical minerals realm:

    As the Australian Financial Review’s U.S. correspondent Matthew Cranston reported last week, Australian mining company Ioneer has entered into an agreement with the world’s second largest manufacturer of battery components, South Korea’s EcoPro, under which it will sell up to a third of the Lithium produced at Ioneer’s Rhylite Ridge site in Nevada to the battery manufacturer. In doing so, “Ioneer will effectively supply the critical minerals that go into the production of Ford and Volkswagen electric vehicles in the US by supplying the South Korean-based EcoPro,” writes Cranston. Cranston calls the agreement “one of the first major deals since President Joe Biden’s decree to shift away from lower-standard Chinese critical mineral and component production in US supply chains.” That’s a Nevada-to-Korea-and-back-to-the-U.S. supply chain, de-coupling from China’s dominant EV battery sector.

    Expected to produce as much as 800,000 metric tons of Lithium over the next forty years at its Nevada mine site, Ioneer will supply up to 7,000 metric tons of Lithium carbonate to EcoPro per year over the course of three years under the agreement.

    A similar supply chain shift is evident in the Rare Earths sector, where Energy Fuels and Neo Performance Materials have joined forces to create a “new United States-to-Europe rare earth supply chain.” Earlier this month, a first container containing 20 metric tons of mixed rare earth carbonate shipped from Energy Fuel’s White Mesa Mill in Utah to Neo’s Silmet rare earth processing facility located in Estonia, where the materials will be separated into rare earth oxides and other rare earth compounds.

    According to Energy Fuels’s CEO Mark Chalmers, with Neo being the only commercial producer of separated rare earth oxides in Europe, product is being shipped to Estonia because “there is no next step in the United States. We ship to Estonia because that’s the only separation plant that makes the high purity rare earth elements in Europe.”

    Meanwhile, the company is planning to build a separation plant at White Mesa over the course of the next two to three years, with a potential prospect of incorporating other metals and alloys, as well as capabilities to manufacture REE permanent magnets.

    The deals tie into the “all of the above” approach embraced by the Biden Administration in its 100 Day Supply Chain Report and subsequent policy statements, which seeks to invest in “sustainable production, refining, and recycling capacity domestically,” while at the same time looking to “diversify supply chains away from adversarial nations and sources with unacceptable environmental and labor standards” by working closely with allies and partners.

    As these U.S.-to-Korea and U.S.-to-Estonia examples suggest, we can reasonably expect more deals remapping global supply chains in the coming weeks and months – and ARPN followers can reasonably expect that we will feature them when appropriate in the context of ARPN’s ongoing coverage of our nation’s critical mineral resource challenges.

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  • A Look North: Challenges and Opportunities Relating to Canada’s Critical Mineral Resource Dependence on China

    Like the United States, Canada has subjected itself to an “increasingly uncomfortable reliance” on China for critical mineral supplies, but its wealth of metals and minerals beneath the country’s soil could, if properly harnessed, give Canada a significant strategic advantage in years to come, mining executives and experts recently told Canada’s House of Commons resource committee.

    The hearings were held against the backdrop of deteriorating diplomatic relations between Canada and China over the detention of two Canadian citizens which has laid bare China’s willingness to “inflict economic pain by restricting Canadian exports,” writes Jesse Snyder for the National Post.

    Pierre Gratton, head of Canada’s mining association, told policymakers:

    “For decades, China has held monopoly-like control over critical minerals production and distribution, rendering the rest of the world reliant on procurement and creating a level of risk that deters investors from entering these markets.”

    Gratton and others urged the creation of a “framework to develop and then protect Canadian supply chains for batteries and other products, and recommended the federal government establish a $250-million program over five years to incentivize investment in demonstration projects.” As China is increasingly demonstrating its willingness to play politics with its monopoly-like position in the critical minerals realm, experts also stressed the importance of strengthening ties with allies like Europe, the United States and Japan.

    Having faced criticism over its handling of Chinese takeovers of Canadian natural resource assets, Industry Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne updated the guidelines and lowered the threshold for a national security review for such procedures. The move followed the release of Canada’s first critical minerals list – a list of 31 metals and minerals deemed critical “for the sustainable economic success of Canada and our allies—minerals that can be produced in Canada, are essential to domestic industry and security and have the potential to support secure and resilient supply chains to meet global demand.”

    Unlike its U.S. peer, Canada’s list, as we recently pointed out, acknowledges the importance of what we consider traditional mainstay metals like Copper, Nickel and Zinc — which, as followers of ARPN well know, are not only key components of 21st Century technology in their own right, but are also gateway metals that “unlock” a slew of other critical metals and minerals.

    With the Biden Administration having made significant investments in EV battery technology a central piece of its infrastructure overhaul plan, relations with close allies are taking center stage. And with the U.S. and Canada having long shared a special relationship and integrated defense industrial base, it only comes naturally that our first look faces North, as the U.S. steps up efforts to diversify critical mineral supply sources and processing away from China. Recent meetings between U.S. Department of Commerce representatives and miners and battery manufacturers to discuss “ways to boost Canadian production of EV materials” point towards increased U.S.-Canadian cooperation, as do increased consultations between the two countries’ Geological Surveys.

    For all of these reasons, we’ll keep tabs on resource-related developments in Ottawa and the buildout of the U.S.-Canadian integrated critical mineral supply chain as it begins to shape up, and will include examples from Canada in our forthcoming “Sustainably Greening the Future” roundups featuring mining companies’ efforts to “close the loop” and cut carbon emissions while supplying America’s mineral needs.

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  • Sec. Granholm, DoE Embrace Domestic EV Mineral Production “So Long As It Is Done Sustainably”

    With the “battery arms race” turbocharged by the coronavirus pandemic, observers are concerned that Lithium ion batteries could become “geopolitical hot potatoes.” In light of these developments, the latest statements from newly-confirmed Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, coupled with the recently-signed executive order on strengthening U.S. supply chains, are encouraging indications that the new Administration [...]
  • China’s Saber-Rattling over Rare Earths Card Getting Louder

    After months of rumblings, it appears that China is gearing up to play its “rare earths card” again. Citing people involved in a government consultation, the Financial Times reports that Beijing is gauging exactly how badly companies in the United States and Europe, including U.S. defense contractors, would be affected by plans to restrict exports [...]
  • Amidst Big Policy Shifts, Signs for Continued Emphasis on Securing Critical Mineral Supply Chains at DoE

    Parents of young children will know: Transitions are hard. And what is true for toddlers, is also true for government. Observers of the critical mineral resource realm have been closely monitoring the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. There were early indications that, unlike some other areas, the critical mineral resource realm [...]
  • USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries: Mineral Resource Dependencies Continue in 2020

    2020 may go down in history as the year in which our world changed drastically, but one thing remained largely steady, according to the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, one of our favorite reports which is hot off the press: Our nation’s mineral resource dependencies. However, as followers of ARPN will know, that is hardly [...]
  • 2020 – A Watershed Year for Resource Policy

    ARPN’s Year in Review — a Cursory Review of the United States’ Critical Mineral Resource Challenge in 2020 It feels like just a few weeks ago many of us quipped that April 2020 seemed like the longest month in history, yet here we are: It’s mid-December, and we have almost made it through 2020. It’s [...]
  • As Troop Withdrawals Make Headlines, U.S. Trailing in War Most Americans Are Not Even Aware Of: The Tech War With China

    According to news reports, the Pentagon earlier this month confirmed a further withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, as National Defense Magazine editor-in-chief Stew Magnuson writes in a new piece for the publication, the U.S. is engaged in a war most Americans were not even aware of — the “Tech War” with China. [...]
  • Take a Break from Election Scrolling – Watch Highlights from Webinar on Lithium Ion Battery, EV and Energy Storage Supply Chain Issues

    While it seems that for weeks, all eyes have been on the Presidential elections in the U.S., earlier in October, our friends of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence hosted its Washington DC Summit 2020, which brought together U.S. Government representatives and industry stakeholders to discuss materials challenges — specifically in the realm of lithium ion battery technology, [...]
  • 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 [...]

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