American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • A New Critical Minerals World Order? — A Look at the Post-Cold War Realignment in the Wake of Covid, War in Ukraine and Geopolitical and Economic Tension

    This week, world leaders are gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. They are facing, as the New York Times’s Roger Cohen (NYT) titled his reporting on the meeting, a “New World Order.”  

    Leaders must “pivot to the new reality provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the growth of extreme inequalities and aggressive Russian and Chinese autocracies,” writes the NYT.

    In the critical mineral realm, these recent events have served as a catalyst for the new “Great Game,” which the geopolitics of mineral resource supply had triggered and which had gained momentum with the adoption of the Paris agreement in 2015 which in turn had committed countries to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewables.

    Over the course of the last few months, awareness of the importance of securing critical mineral supply chains and decoupling form adversaries, i.e. China, continued to grow against the backdrop of an increasingly volatile geopolitical landscape and mounting environmental pressures.  While, as the New York Times suggests, “the shape of an alternative international system is unclear,” we are seeing first steps towards a realignment as nations around the world rethink and reorganize their critical mineral supply chains.  

    ARPN has discussed several developments involving the United States and key allies like Canada and Australia, but Asian nations, too, are taking steps to diversify their supply chains away from China, particularly in the rare earths (REE) space.

    In spite of having signed a deal with Vietnam on rare earth development after having experienced the ramifications of an over-reliance on Chinese minerals first hand with the 2010 rare earths standoff between China and Japan, Japan’s domestic rare earth production has remained limited to date, with more than two thirds of the country’s rare earth supplies coming from China.  With demand surging in the context of growing EV markets, Japan is looking to “curb excessive dependence on specific countries, carry forward next-generation semiconductor development and manufacturing bases, secure stable supply for critical goods including rare earth, and promote capital reinforcement of private enterprises with critical goods and technologies,” according to a government strategy paper cited by Qu4tro Strategies this month.

    To do so, Tokyo inked a critical mineral agreement with Australia in October of 2022 and Japan’s Organization for Metals and Energy Security (Jogmec) is working with private companies to take control of its holding in a joint venture to develop dysprosium-terbium heavy rare earths in Namibia.  Jogmec is also an investor in Australia-based Lynas Rare Earths’s latest push to increase its meaning capacity in Western Australia.

    Vietnam, not traditionally known as a global mining powerhouse, is looking to become a key player in the global REE supply chain.  While, as Qu4tro Strategies outlines, North Korea is believed to be home to the world’s largest rare earth deposits, Vietnam’s large REE reserves are more viable as an alternative to Chinese REEs, as North Korea’s political situation and economic sanctions prevent the country from becoming a link in the global supply chain.

    While exploration in Vietnam has so far been unable to tap into the country’s considerable mineral potential, that may be changing. As a fast-growing economy, Vietnam is attracting companies trying to find new regional bases as U.S.-Chinese trade tensions rise, and post-Covid supply chains remain strained.

    In recent months, several countries have entered into partnership agreements with bot the Vietnamese Government and private companies to establish “an integrated supply chain for rare earths and other critical minerals.”

    Qu4tro Strategies cites the December signing of an agreement between Vietnam and South Korea to jointly explore and develop core minerals including rare earths in Vietnam, as well as a partnership between Australia Strategic Minerals (ASM) and Vietnam Rare Earths for “long-term supply of rare earths to provide feedstock for ASM’s Korean Metals Plant.” 

    Trade between Canada and Vietnam is reported to increase under the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan is actively exploring the “potential for the countries to collaborate on green energy, including sustainable mining and rare earth elements.”

    The Middle East, traditionally known as a leader in the fossil fuel realm, could also emerge as a critical mineral player in a newly realigned world, particularly as nations like Saudi Arabia incentivize investment towards creating integrated value chains, with the country currently processing 145 exploration license applications sent in by foreign companies, according to a new report issued by the Future Minerals Forum in Collaboration with the Payne Institute for Public Policy Colorado School of Mines.

    Meanwhile, Africa’s resource richness is well known. As the Future Minerals Forum’s report outlines, trade tensions with China as well as Russia’s ongoing war have triggered many Western countries to turn to Africa for investment opportunities in critical mineral supply during 2022.

    Discussions between Minerals Security Partnership countries (see our post here) have begun involving African regions as targets for potential partnerships, and five countries — the DRC, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia – have initiated conversations on development opportunities to “diversify and bolster critical mineral supply chains while lowering trade reliance with China and Russia” during the UN General Assembly conference in September 2022.  Deals made at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which included a commitment of over $150 million dollars into Zambia’s mining sector to develop copper and Cobalt, are a case in point.

    However, as the authors of the Future Minerals Forum’s report point out, of Africa, “the scale and pace of investment inflows will largely hinge on the restructuring of domestic governance and policy changes.”

    As leaders continue to deliberate on the new realities of the post-Cold War world order in Davos this week, we will continue our focus on the realignment underway in the minerals sector and will zero in on the West in our second post this week.

  • 2023 – Trend Lines and Breaking Points – It’s Time to Buckle Up (Especially in the EV Space)

    Happy New Year!

    For most of us, the first week of January means it’s time to go back to the grind after an extended period of family time, food coma, rest and – hypothetically, at least — reflection.  It also means trying shake the brain fog and mental rust that has settled in order to dive back into the swing of things.

    Today, it’s time to meet 2023 head-on.

    If you could use a refresher to get you up to speed on where we are in the critical minerals space, take a look at our Year in Review” post, especially if you missed it amidst the pre-holiday craziness in December.

    In it, we argued that in some ways, 2022 was the year in which strengthening supply chains moved from “rhetoric to reality” as much progress was made, including important groundwork to build out a secure North American critical minerals supply chain.  However, we also cautioned that much more remains to be done, and to overcome the many challenges, new alliances will need to be forged.

    As Shane Lasley argues in Critical Minerals Alliances 2022, a magazine covering 29 metals and minerals (when counting rare earths as 14)  deemed critical to North American supply chains as well as related policy issues:

     “The optimum solution to laying the foundation for the next epoch of human progress will only be discovered through the forging of unlikely alliances between the woke and old school, environmental conservationists and natural resource developers, liberals and conservatives, national laboratories and private sector entrepreneurs, local stakeholders and global mining companies, venture capitalists and innovators, and everyone else with visions of a cleaner, greener, and high-tech future.”

    Now the question is, what lies ahead?

    As we look at overall trend lines in the critical minerals space, we see the following themes emerge:

    • A focus on the Super Criticals (see our Year in Review post for more info);
    • the growing importance of geopolitics, with China taking center stage and alliances and partnerships continuing to be forged to reduce reliance on Beijing;
    • the acceleration of the green energy transition which will require vast amounts of critical minerals;
    • as well as industry’s efforts to sustainably green our future by harnessing the materials science revolution.

    All of these themes are intertwined, and more may emerge in the coming months, but rest assured that ARPN will be covering these issues extensively as we go forward.

    Of course, we are not the only ones to have paused and reflected on what’s to come in 2023.  In a new piece for InvestorIntel.com, editor in chief, critical minerals, Jack Lifton stipulates that “2023 is a breaking point if there is to be an EV revolution/transformation.”

    Arguing that “[i]t is not at all certain that high-tech, critical minerals producers and processors, will be ready or even existent by the time the minerals can be delivered to their end-user manufacturers,” Lifton says that “[i]t’s time that car makers performed a due diligence on the critical minerals’ supply space.”

    In his view, car makers must — specifically for minerals, metals and manufactured components dependent upon lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, manganese and the rare earths —

    • “[a]scertain whether or not the supply of finished components necessary for the assembly of motor vehicles (…) can meet current and all future demand;
    • and predict and mandate price maximums for critical minerals that they can afford if their products are to be sellable.”

    Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Simon Moores says that “2023 will be the end of the start up phase for electric vehicles and battery supply chains” as we are “entering scale up.” He adds: “This may seem like demand (which industry could not fulfill) is falling when it’s high and volatile. A sky high but bumpy ride ahead.”

    In the waning days of December the stage was set for 2023 with decisions to come standing to determine national fortunes and human progress in decades ahead.

    As 2023 rolls down the runway, it’s time to buckle up.

  • 2022 – ARPN’s YEAR IN REVIEW

      2022 surely was as fast-paced a year as they come. Didn’t we just throw overboard our New Year’s Resolutions?  We blinked, and it’s time for another review of what has happened in the past twelve months. So with no further ado, here is ARPN’s annual attempt to take stock of what has happened on the [...]
  • A New “Great Game” is Afoot – Are We Able to Keep the Focus on Diversifying Critical Mineral Supply Chains Away from Adversaries

    In a new piece for Canada’s Globe and Mail, columnist Robert Muggah zeroes in on the geopolitics of mineral resource supply, which have, in his view, triggered a new “Great Game” – a term coined by British writer Rudyard Kipling to describe the “fierce competition between Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia, both of which sought to control South Asia [...]
  • A Look Beyond the United States — Realizing the Extent of Resource Dependencies, Countries Take Steps to Bolster Domestic Supply Chains

    Against the backdrop of mounting geopolitical and ongoing supply chain challenges, countries are left grappling with the the mineral intensity of the sought-after global transition towards a net zero carbon emissions future. In their quest to untangle complex critical mineral supply chains and reduce over-reliance on adversary nations, the extent of which was first brought [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • From OPEC to OMEC — From Footnote to Public Policy?

    Against the backdrop of the accelerating global push towards net zero carbon emissions, the authors of a May 2021 KPMG study on “geographical and geopolitical constraints to the supply of resources critical to the energy transition” and the associated “call for a circular economy solution” titled the first chapter of their report “From OPEC to ‘OMEC’: the new global energy ecosystem.” In a [...]
  • The Reorganization of the Post-Cold War Geopolitical Landscape and its Impact on Critical Mineral Supply – A Look at Copper

    Pandemic induced supply chain shocks, increasing resource nationalism in various parts of the world, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exactly one month ago have brought the stakes for securing critical mineral resource supply chains to a whole new level. The emerging geopolitical landscape has sent countries scrambling to devise strategies to not only ensure steady [...]
  • Russia’s War on Ukraine and Rising Resource Nationalism to Reshape Global Post-Cold War Order and Resource Supply Chains – A Look at Cobalt

    With a single electric vehicle battery requiring between 10 and 30 pounds of cobalt content, the lustrous, silvery blue, hard ferromagnetic, brittle nickel and copper co-product has long attained “critical mineral” status. However, with most global supplies of the material coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where mining conditions often involve unethical labor standards and [...]