American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • DoD Chapter of 100-Day Supply Chain Report Acknowledges Gateway/Co-product Challenge

    Friends of ARPN will know that much of our work is grounded in a conviction that the Technology Age is driven by a revolution in materials science – a rapidly accelerating effort that is unlocking the potential of scores of metals and minerals long known but seldom utilized in our tools and technologies.”

    In this context we have long argued that while it is essential to focus on the metals and minerals that are driving headlines, such as the Rare Earths and battery tech metals like Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel, Manganese and Graphite, we must not forget about the inter-relationship between what we have been calling “gateway metals” and their “co-products.”

    Gateway metals – which include mainstay metals like Copper, Aluminum, Nickel, Tin, and Zinc, are not only critical to manufacturing in their own right, but “unlock” tech metals increasingly indispensable to innovation and development. For too long, these “unlocked” tech metals were dubbed “by-products,” or even “minor metals” — labels that don’t do these materials and their increasingly broad applications justice.

    Courtesy of the ongoing materials science revolution, both groups of metals and minerals are increasingly becoming the building blocks of 21st Century technology, which is why we believe the “by-products” should be referred to as “co-products.” Meanwhile, many of them are fraught with similar dependency issues like the news-grabbing Rare Earths or battery tech metals.

    As such, we were pleased to see that the DoD-led chapter of the White House’s 100-Day Supply Chain Report not only draws attention to this issue complex, but also appears to have embraced the “co-product” label – using it interchangeably with the term “byproduct.”

    Under the header “Byproduct and Coproduction Dependency,” the DoD chapter argues that “[b]yproduct production of strategic and critical materials can add significant value to an existing production operation and improve the business case for a nascent producer. However, some strategic and critical materials are derived exclusively from byproduct production, which means a fairly small market depends on the prevailing dynamics of a separate but much larger commodity market. (…) In some cases the concentration of supply can be so extreme that U.S. or global production is concentrated in a single source. (…) More generally, in DoD modeling of strategic and critical materials under national emergency conditions, a domestic sole-source provider exists for 29 of the 53 unclassified shortfall materials, and 18 materials have no domestic production at all.”

    This is a significant development, because unlike the recently released Canadian government’s official critical minerals list, the U.S. Government’s List of 35, released in 2018, did not acknowledge the connection between primary mining materials and their critical-co-products.

    With the gateway/co-product challenge finding its way into public discourse by way of the 100-Day Supply Chain report, there is hope that the drafters of a forthcoming updated U.S. Government Critical Minerals List will acknowledge the importance of Gateway Metals — and that policy makers will factor this issue complex into the “all of the above” approach. As yesterday’s “minor metals” become major materials in tech applications, America’s mineral resource security may well hinge on encouraging innovative sources of supply.

  • DoD-led “100-Day” Supply Chain Assessment Concludes We Need “All of The Above” Approach to Critical Mineral Resource Security

    Last week, the Biden Administration released the findings of its 100-day supply chain review initiated by Executive Order 14017 – “America’s Supply Chains.”

    From a Critical Minerals perspective, there is a lot to unpack in the 250-page report, and we’ll be digging into the various chapters and issues over the next few days and weeks.

    First up: a closer look at the Review of Critical Minerals and Materials,” an “interagency assessment for which the Department of Defense served as the lead” — not least because we were pleased to find ARPN’s call for an “all of the above approach” to mineral resource security echoed in the chapter. Rather than attempting a comprehensive full-chapter summary, we’ll highlight some key findings of interest to followers of ARPN:

    The Department of Defense defines strategic and critical minerals as “those that support military and essential civilian industry; and are not found or produced in the United States in quantities to meet our needs.”

    The agency notes that in the three decades since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the subsequent reorientation of global supply chains has fundamentally changed the landscape for strategic and critical minerals. With the rise of China, and availability of supplies that were previously locked behind the Iron Curtain, “[t]rade liberalization and global, just-in-time supply chains became the order of the day,” and the prioritization of economic efficiency over “diversity and sustainability of supply” contributed to a slow “erosion of manufacturing capabilities.”

    While supply chains became more complex, DoD laments that with the the impetus for national mobilization programs falling by the wayside “core capabilities at non-defense agencies to study, characterize and mitigate risk in the strategic and critical materials sector atrophied.”

    DoD finds that today’s concentration of global supply chains for strategic and critical materials in China — a reality the American public has increasingly become aware of in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, “creates risk of disruption and of politicized trade practices, including the use of forced labor.”

    In its assessment of mitigation strategies, DoD looks at various sources of supply and concludes that

    “[t]hough increasing recycling rates for strategic and critical materials is advantageous, recycling alone is typically inadequate to supply the volumes of material required for domestic consumption. Even if 100 percent recycling rates were achieved for a particular supply chain, increasing demand necessitates primary production.”

    The agency notes that “complex extraction, chemical, and refining operations, establishing strategic and critical material production is an extremely lengthy process. Independent of permitting activities, a reasonable industry benchmark for the development of a mineral-based strategic and critical materials project is not less than ten years.”

    In its risk assessment, aside from looking at “concentration of supply,” “skills and human capital development gaps” and “conflict minerals,” as well as trade and market dynamics, DoD also highlights the importance of “byproduct and coproduct dependency,” an issue complex of which followers of ARPN are well-aware.

    To alleviate risk, DoD suggests the following:

    “Reliable, secure, and resilient supplies of key strategic and critical materials are essential to the U.S. economy and national defense. The United States needs an ‘all of the above’ comprehensive strategy to increase the resilience of strategic and critical material supply chains that both expands sustainable production and processing capacity and works with allies and partners to ensure secure global supply.”

    Specifically, the agency recommends a strategy focused on the following:

    • Developing and Fostering New Sustainability Standards for Strategic and Critical Material- Intensive Industries
    • Expanding Sustainable Domestic Production and Processing Capacity, Including Recovery from Secondary and Unconventional Sources and Recycling
    • Deploying the DPA — specifically Title III — and Other Programs
    • Convene Industry Stakeholders to Expand Production
    • Promote Interagency Research & Development to Support Sustainable Production and a Technically-Skilled Workforce
    • Strengthen U.S. Stockpiles
    • Work with Allies and Partners and Strengthen Global Supply Chain Transparency

    DoD’s conclusion:

    “Today, at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, a new industrial era of low-carbon and increasingly energy efficient products is converging with autonomous and Internet-of-Things devices, which may lead to massive gains in productivity and economic growth. If the United States wants to capture the full benefits of this new era, we must also look to the sustainability of our strategic and critical materials supply chains. The Department of Defense can play an important role, but the Department cannot carry-out this task alone. This is a task for the Nation.

    The U.S. Government, collectively, has examined the risk in strategic and critical materials supply chains for decades. Now is the time for decisive, comprehensive action by the Biden-Harris Administration, by the Congress, and by stakeholders from industry and non-governmental organizations to support sustainable production and conservation of strategic and critical materials.”

    In the wake of several media reports that the Biden Administration would pursue a more selective strategy focused primarily on domestic processing rather than also supporting increased domestic production, it is encouraging to see DoD — and the Biden Administration as a whole — endorse a broad-based “all of the above” approach to mineral resource security. With the strategy now in place, ARPN will look for signs that the U.S. Government with transform those recommendations into reality, via policy, programs and projects that address the deep shortfalls in Critical Mineral supply.

  • 2019 New Year’s Resolutions for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    Out with the old, in with the new, they say. It‘s new year‘s resolutions time.  With the end of 2017 having set the stage for potentially meaningful reform in mineral resource policy, we outlined a set of suggested resolutions for stakeholders for 2018 in January of last year.  And while several important steps  were taken [...]
  • New NMA Infographic Visualizes Impact of Overreliance on Foreign Minerals

    The long-awaited Defense Industrial Base report is ringing the alarm on supply chain vulnerabilities for the defense sector. As followers of ARPN will know, some aspects of the issues outlined in the report could be alleviated if the United States had a comprehensive mineral resource strategy and streamlined, updated permitting system for domestic mining projects [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member: Defense Industrial Base Report “A Significant Step Forward for the U.S. Military”

    With the long-awaited Defense Industrial Base report finally released, analysts have begun pouring over the 146-pages-long document. One of the first issue experts to offer commentary in a national publication was Jeff Green, president of Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm J.A. Green & Company, and member of the ARPN panel of experts. Writing for Defense [...]
  • Long-Awaited Defense Industrial Base Report Unveils Significant Strategic Vulnerabilities, Holds Major Implications for Resource Policy

    While September coverage for our blog mostly revolved around two major story lines, i.e. electronic vehicles battery tech and trade, today’s release of the long-awaited Defense Industrial Base Report will likely change this for October — for good reasons. As Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy, outlines today in a [...]
  • While Some Reforms Fizzled, Enacted NDAA Contains Potentially Precedent-Setting REE Sourcing Provision

    As we have noted, the recently-signed John S. McCain (may he rest in peace) National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), stands as a missed opportunity to enact several meaningful mineral resource policy reforms. Nonetheless, one provision of the signed legislation marks an important development for the realm of resource policy – [...]
  • “From Bad to Worse” – Why the Current Focus on Critical Minerals Matters

    Earlier this spring, the Department of the Interior released its finalized Critical Minerals List.  Jeffery Green, president and founder of government relations firm J.A. Green & Company and member of the ARPN panel of experts reminded us in a recent piece for Defense News why the current focus on our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources [...]
  • EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment: A Factual Review of a Hypothetical Scenario

    Testimony presented by Daniel McGroarty – Oversight Hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology Subcommittee, August 1, 2013 Chairman Broun, Ranking Member Maffei, Members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Daniel McGroarty, and I am president of the American Resources Policy [...]
  • Awareness for REE supply chain issues grows in U.S. Senate

    In a column for the Washington Examiner, Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, asks why President Obama won’t “let the Defense Department face the rare earth security risk,” stemming from the severity of our mineral resource dependency on China. He cites Congressman Mike Coffman, sponsor of Federal [...]