American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Members of Congress to DoD on Seabed Mining: “U.S. Can’t Afford to Cede Another Critical Mineral Resource to China”

    While last month’s meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping was aimed at reducing tension between the two global powers, Evan Medeiros, a senior fellow on foreign policy at the Centre for China Analysis who served on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, believes that “the U.S.-China relationship is entering a very challenging period, partly driven by domestic political forces in both nations that are raising tensions and pushing the two countries apart.”

    As we noted here at ARPN, comments made by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California earlier this month underscored that, at least on the trade front, “all arrows very much point to confrontation.”

    Concerns over China have also been mounting on Capitol Hill, especially with regards to China’s supply chain leverage over critical minerals.

    Earlier this week, Congressman Daniel Webster (R-Fl), along with R-Clermont, along with House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), House Committee on Armed Services Vice Chair Rob Wittman (R-VA), and 28 of his House colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging that the Department develop a plan “to address the national security ramifications of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) interest and investment in seabed mining,” arguing that “[w]e cannot afford to cede another critical mineral resource to China.”

    The members note that China’s recent tightening of export controls – see ARPN’s coverage here and here — ties into a “series of efforts from the CCP to further dominate crucial supply chains this year,” and remind DoD of its mandate to “continue improving the resilience of national defense supply chains,” while emphasizing “the importance of evaluating and planning for seabed mining as a new vector of competition with China for resource superiority and security.” 

    Considered mostly a futuristic niche issue for a long time, the question of seabed mining has in recent years garnered more attention as the global race for critical has heated up and technology has advanced.

    According to the letter:

    “The deep-sea bed contains small polymetallic nodules–rich in manganese, cobalt, copper, nickel, and rare earth elements—that are contained in deposits across international waters, often hundreds to thousands of miles from shore and occurring at water depths of 200 meters or greater. Deep-sea mining is regulated by the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an institution where the United States only holds observer status. ISA has already granted five of the 31 total deep-sea valuable metal exploration licenses to China, covering 17 percent of the of the total area currently licensed by ISA.  Russia also holds two ISA exploration contracts.China is putting pressure on ISA to accelerate its decision-making process to adopt regulations by 2025 or sooner–a demand that comes on the heels of ISA missing a deadline to establish a regulatory framework earlier this year–at which point mining can begin.”

    The members conclude that the United States, and specifically, the Department of Defense, should be “engaging with allies, partners, and industry to ensure that China does not seize unfettered control of deep-sea assets,” and ask several pointed questions to which they demand answers by December 18, 2023.

    (For the full letter and questions to DoD, click here.)

    While the regulatory, environmental and economic challenges to deep-sea mining are not insignificant, it may just become the newest frontier in the Tech War between the United States and China – and here as on resource development on dry land, the U.S. had better be ready.

  • U.S. Senators Nudge National Science Foundation on Funding for Mining Engineering

    As demand for critical minerals continues to surge against the backdrop of the accelerating push towards net zero carbon emissions and supply chain challenges in the face of growing geopolitical volatility, the United States has taken several important steps to strengthen U.S. domestic critical mineral supply chains.

    Sometimes the obvious can be overlooked:  As a case in point, consider the human resources required to unlock the natural resources needed to power 21st Century technologies.  Is the U.S. doing what it must to excite, encourage and educate the next generation of geologists, metallurgists, engineers, materials scientists and the many other disciplines involved in extracting and processing critical minerals?

    While much of the Congressional effort has focused on the exploration, development and recycling of critical minerals, the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 (P.L. 117-167) (CHIPS Law) contains a provision making funding available to bolster the mining workforce.

    Late last month, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo) sent a letter to U.S. National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan requesting an update on what steps the National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken to implement Section 10359 of the CHIPS Act, the inclusion of which the senators had secured at the time of the law’s passage.

    The senators lament that estimated enrollment at the 14 mining schools currently accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. has rapidly declined from almost 1,500 in 2015 to just under 600 students today, with only roughly 200 students anticipated to graduate with Bachelor of Science degrees in mining engineering from U.S. schools this year.

    Section 10359 of the CHIPS Act directed NSF to offer funding to universities and nonprofit organizations to “grow the next generation of mining engineers and support research and innovations that will improve mining technologies, reducing our reliance on China and other adversaries for critical minerals and materials.” 

    Write the senators:

    “To ensure the United States is able to innovate and compete on a global scale, we must recruit, educate, train, and develop tomorrow’s workforce today, providing them the tools they need to meet the challenge of developing a secure domestic resource supply chain that will strengthen our nation’s future economic and national security. (…)

    It is critical that the NSF swiftly implement Sec. 10359, so that the U.S. remains competitive with a strong, skilled, and adaptive workforce to meet the needs of the modern mining industry.”

    The senators are “are eager to learn what steps the National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken to implement this provision and engage with communities across the country on available opportunities,” and request an update by Director Panchanathan by January 12, 2024.  ARPN will be sure to keep tabs on NSF’s response, and on the broader effort to encourage the cultivation of the human resources needed to develop the Nation’s natural resources for decades to come.

  • The Most Critical Non-Critical? A Look at Copper

    In a new piece for Metal Tech News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on the U.S. government’s failure – at least to date – to afford critical mineral status to copper, which is not only a key mainstay metal but an indispensable component in clean energy technology, and supply scenarios in the face of surging demand as the [...]
  • As Europe Votes to Further Critical Mineral Resource Security, U.S. Must Not Let Momentum for Reform Slip

    Earlier this moth, the European Parliament’s industry committee voted to endorse the EU’s draft Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA – see our coverage here) which sets benchmarks to increase domestic capacity for critical minerals extraction in an effort to reduce the EU’s over-reliance on supplies from China and other countries. The vote is a timely one and [...]
  • Lawmakers Seek Critical Mineral Designation for Copper via Federal Legislation

    Two weeks after the U.S. Geological Survey rebuffed a bipartisan call from members of Congress for an “out-of-cycle”addition of copper to the U.S. Government’s official List of Critical Minerals, House Republicans from Western mining states are pushing to achieve the “critical mineral” designation for copper via legislation. Arguing that changing copper’s designation would allow the federal government to more efficiently [...]
  • Tackling the “Single Point of Failure” – Inside the Push to Bolster the U.S. Domestic Nickel Supply Chain

    Against the backdrop of the accelerating global push to net zero carbon emissions, a volatile overall geopolitical climate and a new EPA proposal to tighten tailpipe emission standards U.S. stakeholders are looking for ways to secure critical mineral supply chains. The expectation is that with the proposed EPA rules requiring automakers to reduce carbon emissions [...]
  • Tech Arms Race to Heat Up as Western Nations Take Steps to Counter China on Semiconductors, Critical Minerals

     Semiconductors have become indispensable components for a broad range of electronic devices. They are not only “the material basis for integrated circuits that are essential to modern day life” – the “‘DNA’ of technology” which has “transformed essentially all segments of the economy,” they are also essential to national security, where they enable the “development and fielding of advanced weapons systems and [...]
  • New Push to Bolster Critical Mineral Supply Chains to Shore Up Industrial Base Focuses on Permitting, Banning “Bad Actors”

    In a guest editorial for the Pennsylvania-based Patriot News, Gen. John Adams, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, president of Guardian Six Consulting and a former deputy U.S. military representative to NATO’s Military Committee, writes that the war in Ukraine, following on the heels of a pandemic that unearthed massive supply chain challenges across many [...]
  • As U.S. Chinese Tensions Soar, Congressional Witnesses Call for Strengthening U.S. Defense Industrial Base and Domestic Critical Mineral Supply Chains During Armed Services Committee Hearing

    If we needed any more reminders about the high-stakes nature of our ongoing (see ARPN’s post on the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries report here) deep over-reliance on Chinese-sourced (and/or processed) critical minerals, the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace and the subsequent downing of three other unidentified flying objects over Alaska [...]
  • New Year, New Congress, New Impetus for Critical Mineral Policy Reform?

    Two weeks into the new year, it appears that 2023 will continue the fast-paced tempo we got used to in 2022 when it comes to developments on the critical minerals front. With Congressional leadership elections – finally – behind us, policy makers in Washington are gearing up to delve into the issues, and, if the [...]