American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Nature Magazine Column Calls on U.S. to “Embrace Tough Trade-Offs” and “Get Serious” About Domestic Mining to Support Green Energy Shift

    The time has come for the United States to get “serious about mining critical minerals for green energy,” writes Saleem H. Ali for Nature.

    Ali points to the inherent irony of the green energy transition — renewable technologies requiring vast and increasing amounts of metals and minerals like lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese and REEs, but the U.S. Administration finding itself in a bind with the climate movement, a core part of President Joe Biden’s base, not wanting to mine them, “certainly not close to home.”

    Ali cites the January 2023 Boundary Waters decision, in which the U.S. Department of the Interior closed over 350 square miles of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota – an area that holds some of the nation’s largest undeveloped deposits of copper and nickel but is also known for its pristine lakes — to mineral and geothermal leasing for twenty years.

    Arguing that while the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) sentiment has gone global – Ali points to Serbia’s Jadar lithium mining project being stopped in response to environmentalist pressures — the “United States seems particularly stuck.”  

    (See ARPN’S coverage of the NIMBY movement here.)

    Relying on allies, such as Australia and Canada, and countries with “controversial domestic-labour policies and environmental standards, including Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo” rather than developing its own resources has led to the U.S. yielding to China which has “benefited from the uncompromising US opposition to domestic mining and has built up a formidable dominance in critical metal extraction and processing over the past 30 years.”

    Ali notes that while “[m]ining has a sordid history of exploitation and plunder, particularly with respect to Indigenous people,” “contemporary mines with regulatory oversight can have workable impact–benefit agreements with communities,” citing specific examples exemplifying such agreements, including Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Canada and Red Dog Mine in Alaska, which preferentially employ Indigenous people, respect traditional hunting seasons and include incremental royalties and partial resource ownership.

    Ali suggests:

    “The country is in danger of forgetting one of the four laws of ecology that Barry Commoner (…) established in his 1971 book A Closing Circle: ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch.’ All industrial activities have some ecological impact. As researchers, and as informed societies, we must consider the benefits and trade-offs in concert.”

    adding that

    “as the world prepares for the 2023 COP28 climate conference — where even free conference lunches are not really free — the United States should revisit Commoner’s wisdom: there is virtue in embracing tough trade-offs.”

    All in all, a welcome if somewhat unexpected proposition coming in an article from (mostly) peer-reviewed Nature.

  • 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 industries, has led to stakeholders finally re-embracing the need for a “robust industrial policy and strategic expansion of the nation’s manufacturing base” after years of neglect.

    He writes:

    “From our warfighting capabilities to overlooked supply chains—including the personal protective equipment and essential medicines that were in short supply during the height of the pandemic—we’ve come to recognize that an unbalanced focus on efficiency has hollowed out key pieces of American manufacturing.

    Countless supply chains are overstretched, and we’ve lost critical slack needed to ramp up production of essential goods and materials when needed. The withering of our industrial base has also created alarming reliance on supply chains controlled by our rivals or—worse yet—our adversaries.

    Our extraordinarily dangerous over-reliance on mineral and metal imports—particularly from China—is a case in point.”

    While there has been a “groundswell of bipartisan energy to address the minerals problem” – Gen. Adams cites the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the recent invocations of the Defense Production Act – some key issues that would help address said over-reliance on China, such as permitting reform, have yet to be addressed.

    The just-introduced Transparency, Accountability, Permitting and Production of (TAPP) American Resources Act, H.R. 1 seeks to bolster U.S. critical mineral supply chains by reducing red tape, entry barriers and redundancies, and reforming the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to provide industry with clearer timelines and more certainty, among other things.

    As Adams argues, “[a]s the war in Ukraine underscores, productive capacity is the foundation from which we can project strength and deterrence. It’s also how we can insulate our economy from those who seek to use supply chain dominance to exert undue geopolitical leverage.”

    Reforming the U.S. permitting process to meet the national security exigencies of the 21st Century Technology Age is just one side of the coin — insuring that potential adversaries, “bad actors” in the parlance of the newly-unveiled TAPP Act don’t have undue access to domestic resources, is the other.

    A provision in TAPP would limit Chinese and other “bad actors’” involvement in the U.S. critical minerals industry:

    Sec. 20309 would bar “a mining claimant from the right to use, occupy and conduct operations on Federal land if the Secretary of Interior finds that the claimant has a foreign parent company that has a known record of human rights violations and knowingly operated an illegal mine in another country.”

    According to the Daily Caller, “it was not immediately clear if the proposed legislation would impact firms like Lithium Americas, which is only owned in part by Chinese mining giant Gangfeng Lithium through subsidiary GFL International,” and which won federal court approval in 2021 to establish a major lithium mining project in Nevada.

    With partisan politics dominating the halls on Capitol Hill, H.R. 1 and its provisions will likely face an uphill battle, but the the focus on permitting reform in general, and the inclusion of Sec. 20309 specifically highlights the fact that stakeholders are beginning to realize that harnessing and protecting domestic assets will be key as the global resource wars enter into the next round.

  • 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 [...]
  • A Look at the Inflation Reduction Act and Its Potential to “Reclaim Critical Mineral Chains”

    In a comprehensive new piece for Foreign Policy, director of the Payne Institute and professor of public policy at the Colorado School of Mines Morgan Bazilian, and postdoctoral fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University Gregory Brew take a closer look at the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act’s energy provisions, which in their [...]
  • Invocation of Defense Production Act a Sign “America is Finally Taking the Battery Metal Shortage Seriously” – But Must be Embedded in True All-of-the-Above Strategy

    Last week, against the backdrop of mounting pressures on U.S. critical mineral supply chains, U.S. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to encourage domestic production of the metals and minerals deemed critical for electric vehicle and large capacity batteries. The move is a sign that “America is finally taking the battery metal shortage seriously,” as the [...]
  • Critical Minerals in Focus – U.S. Senate Full Committee Hearing on Domestic Critical Mineral Supply Chains

    Bearing testimony to a growing awareness of our nation’s critical mineral resource challenge, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a full committee hearing on domestic critical mineral supply chains earlier this week. The witness panel at the hearing, which E&E Daily described as “a largely pro-mining hearing that could serve as a blueprint for a potential deal [...]
  • Report from The Yukon: Critical Minerals Challenge Brings “Geopolitical Backwater” Into Focus

    As we outlined in our last post, the Biden Administration’s strategy to secure critical mineral supply chains, as outlined in its just-released 100 Day Supply Chain Report, embraces an “all of the above approach.” While strengthening sustainable mining and processing domestically, the Administration will also rely on partnerships with our closest allies — and of [...]
  • Tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 10 – U.S. House Committee to Hold Hearing on “Research and Innovation to Address the Critical Materials Challenge”

    On Tuesday, December 10 — close to the two-year anniversary of the White House’s executive order “to develop a federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals” the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on “Research and Innovation to Address the Critical Materials Challenge.” The hearing comes against the backdrop of increased [...]
  • REEs Underscore Challenges of Erosion of Defense Industrial Base

    While policies stemming from the dominating free-trade ideology “have succeeded in generating great wealth for the U.S. economy, they have also led to a number of unintended consequences, including the erosion of the manufacturing segment of the defense industrial base,” argues Jeff Green, president of Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm J.A. Green & Company, and member of [...]
  • Defense Industrial Base Report “Clear Sign We Need to Act Urgently”

    In a new piece for The Hill’s Congress Daily Blog, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams argues the recently released Defense Industrial Base Report and its findings, which we previously discussed here and here, represent a call to action for Congress and other stakeholders, because it shows that “[j]ust when we should be retooling for [...]