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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
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  • Metals in the Spotlight – Aluminum and the Intersection between Resource Policy and Trade

    While specialty and tech metals like the Rare Earths and Lithium continue to dominate the news cycles, there is a mainstay metal that has – for good reason – been making headlines as well: Aluminum. 

    Bloomberg recently even argued that “Aluminum Is the Market to Watch Closely in 2019.” 

    Included in the 2018 list of 35 minerals deemed critical to the United States national security and economy, aluminum is the No. 1 material by annual DoD usage, and a shortage of aluminum metal was cited in a nonclassified defense study as having ‘already caused some kind of significant weapon system production delay for DoD.’ 

    The U.S. is home to significant bauxite deposits, from which aluminum is sourced, but we import a significant percentage of the aluminum consumed domestically.  Unlike with other metals and minerals, however, this represents a marked decrease in geopolitical risk, as most of our aluminum imports are sourced from one of our closest trading partners, Canada, which accounted for 56% of total aluminum imports from 2013-2016.

    While viewed in isolation and from the upstream end of the supply chain at the minesite, the U.S. is increasingly import-dependent for the aluminum it needs, but viewed in the context of an integrated North American supply chain between the United States and Canada, our neighbor to the North is helping the U.S. close a significant domestic production shortfall.

    Thus, many were startled by the Administration’s decision earlier last year to impose trade tariffs on Canadian-made aluminum and steel under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act.

    Followers of ARPN may recall that the USMCA, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal to replace NAFTA struck in November 2018, had opened a window to drop these tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico, which stand in the way of a fully integrated North American defense supply chain and, particularly with regards to Canada, “ignore nearly 80 years of deep defense cooperation with our northern neighbor.”

    Unfortunately, the provision remained intact in the November agreement, prompting more than 45 groups representing a wide range of business sectors to renew their call for an end on the Section 232 tariffs in 2019.  In a coalition letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last week, the signatories argue that

    “for many farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, the damage from the reciprocal trade actions in the steel dispute far outweighs any benefit that may accrue to them from the USMCA. The continued application of metal tariffs means ongoing economic hardship for U.S. companies that depend on imported steel and aluminum, but that are not exempted from these tariffs. Producers of agricultural and manufactured products that are highly dependent on the Canadian and Mexican markets are also suffering serious financial losses.”  

    Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers are preparing draft legislation to strip the Administration of the tool it used to impose the above-referenced tariffs, which it is considering to use to implement further duties on car and car part imports.  

    According to Politico, the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, the draft bill’s working title, would strip the president of the unilateral power to “make a final determination on whether to levy import restrictions if a Commerce Department analysis determines that foreign imports are undermining U.S. economic interests in a way that poses a threat to national security,” by requiring congressional approval of any such tariffs proposed under Section 232.  If passed, the legislation would also require a retroactive vote to approve any tariffs imposed under Section 232 within the last four years — including the ones on aluminum and steel the USMCA negotiators failed to strike. 

    With the tariffs removed, the November USMCA agreement could well become a springboard to take the strategic North American alliance to a new level.”  

    Here’s hoping Washington will not fail America.  

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  • Copper and the 2018 Critical Minerals List – Considerations for Resource Policy Reform

    While we’re still waiting for policy makers and other stakeholders to take further action, in 2018 an important step was taken to set the stage for mineral resource policy reform with the release of the Department of Interior’s List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy. Throughout the drafting stage and subsequent commenting phase, ARPN had lamented the omission of Copper and several other gateway metals from the list.

    Citing ARPN’s Dan McGroarty, Earth Magazine contributor Veronica Tuazon zeroes in on this omission in a recent piece for the American Geosciences Institute’s monthly publication.

    “Copper is essential in electrical wiring and transportation and is playing an increasingly large role in alternative energy, as it is a crucial component in wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles, which require four times as much copper as conventional gas vehicles. But it is also the gateway to several elements on the critical list that are produced as a byproduct of copper mining, as Daniel McGroarty of the American Resources Policy Network, a virtual think tank focused on resource development, pointed out in a series of comments submitted about the DOI’s draft critical minerals list. He also noted that zinc, nickel and lead should be included on the list for the same reason. McGroarty argued that copper is of the highest priority because it ‘is the practical access point to at least four minerals on the DOI List,’ referring to cobalt, rhenium, tellurium and, potentially, the rare earths.”

    Tuazon points out that while USGS, which worked with DoI to put together the list of 35, acknowledged the “co-production issue,” Copper was excluded from the list because the risk of supply disruptions for Copper was considered “very low,” according to Steven Fortier, director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center.

    However, says Tuazon:

    “[W]ith rapid technological advancement and growth, what actually is and isn’t critical changes over time and often eludes simple categorizations. Or as McGroarty puts it, ‘as technology changes, what was once considered minor can have major impacts.’ For example, there was virtually no demand for strontium in the United States before the 1960s, when it was suddenly needed in relatively large quantities to reduce radiation emitted by early televisions.”

    While the United States’ net import reliance for copper may currently be pegged at 34 percent it should be noted that we also have a 600,000 MT copper gap each year – the gap between what we consume and what we produce.

    Against the backdrop of Copper’s growing list of applications and increased usage in one of the key growth markets – EV battery technology (as visualized here) – analysts anticipate Copper consumption to greatly “outstrip supply as it is slated to increase more than six times.”

    On a global scale, with over 200 currently-operating Copper mines slated to reach the end of their production cycle before 2035, CRU analyst Hamish Sampson estimated in the spring of 2018 that “unless new investments arise, existing copper mine production will drop from 20 million tonnes to below 12 million tonnes by 2034, leading to a supply shortfall of more than 15 million tonnes.”

    Sampson argued that only if “every single copper project currently in development or being studied for feasibility is brought online before then, including most discoveries that have not yet reached the evaluation stage, the market could meet projected demand.”

    With a lack of mega-projects coming on stream before the mid-2020s and global production for Copper expected to peak by the second half of 2019 one thing is clear: Whether or not Copper (and its fellow gateway metals) is excluded from the list of 35 critical minerals — It cannot be excluded from policy considerations in 2019.

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  • 2018 – A Year of Incremental Progress?

    In case you hadn’t noticed amidst holiday preparations, travel arrangements and the usual chaos of everyday life – 2019 is just around the corner, and with that, the time to reflect on the past twelve months has arrived. So here is ARPN’s recap of 2018: Where we began. Unlike previous years, we started 2018 with [...]
  • U.S. To Partner With Australia on Critical Minerals R&D

    During an industry event in Melbourne, Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan announced that Australia and the United States are going to sign a preliminary agreement to foster mineral research and development cooperation between the two countries. The announcement comes on the heels of the release of U.S. Department of Interior’s list of 35 metals and [...]
  • Mark Your Calendars for AEMA’s 124th Annual Meeting Dec. 2-7

    We blinked – and the holidays are upon us already. It’s a busy time of the year for everyone, but if you’re still looking for a worthwhile event to put on your calendar this December look no further: Our friends at the American Exploration and Mining Association (AEMA) will be holding their 124th Annual Meeting from [...]
  • Critical Minerals Alaska – Rhenium Riches in Alaska Could Help Alleviate Supply Issues

    The BBC has dubbed Rhenium — another metal included in the Department of the Interior’s Final List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy — a “super element” with standout properties that can be likened to “alien technology.” Thus, it comes as no surprise that Shane Lasley, writing for North of 60 Mining [...]
  • Beyond Golf Clubs and Aircraft – “Critical Minerals Alaska” Zeroes in on Titanium 

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of Sixty Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on Titanium – an “abundant element that has become an important industrial commodity only within the past 150 years,” according to USGS. As Lasley writes, “Titanium conjures images of the durable and lightweight metal used to build aircraft, replacement hips, [...]
  • Infographic Visualizes the Electrification of Vehicle Fleet

    Followers of ARPN may have noticed that much of our recent blog coverage has focused on EV battery tech.  Here are a few examples: Vanadium’s Time to Shine? Race to Control Battery Tech Underscores Need for Comprehensive Resource Policy Lithium – Challenges and Opportunities Underscore Need for Domestic Resource Policy Overhaul Of course, there are [...]
  • Exemptions from U.S. China-directed Tariff List Speak to “Strategic Vulnerabilities” in Resource Realm

    Last month, we highlighted how the exclusion of Rare Earths from the list of tariffs to be imposed on Chinese goods released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) earlier this summer spoke to the growing awareness of their strategic importance in the United States. However, Rare Earths were not the only items [...]
  • Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

    Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – “new kids on the block” arrive in groups. Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, [...]

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