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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The Newest Frontier in the Global Resource Wars: Virtual Weaponized NIMBYism

    Geopolitical tensions, Russia’s war on Ukraine, rising resource nationalism in the Southern hemisphere – against the backdrop of ever-increasing stakes it appears that a new theater in the global resource wars has opened up: Cyber warfare, and more specifically, according to Defense One“weaponized NIMBYism.”

    The U.S. Department of Defense has announced that it is investigating a recently-unearthed disinformation campaign against Australian company Lynas Rare Earths, which is contracted to construct a REE separation facility in Texas.

    Cybersecurity firm Mandiant first reported the efforts of Dragonbridge, a network of “thousands of inauthentic accounts across numerous social media platforms, websites, and forums that have promoted various narratives in support of the political interests of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)” targeting the Australian Miner with content aimed at discrediting the company’s environmental record and instigating local protests of the company’s planned processing facility by posing as local residents on social media.

    While, according to Mandiant, the campaign to date hasn’t been particularly sophisticated, the company has warned that its analysts expect the network to refine its technique as broadens its effort. In June, Dragonbridge began targeting additional REE mining companies, notably Canadian Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp., which is exploring a project in Saskatchewan, Canada, and American REE supplier USA Rare Earth, LLC., with a REE mining project in Texas and a planned processing and magnet manufacturing facility in Oklahoma, with similar disinformation and negative messaging campaigns.

    As Metal Tech News’s Shane Lasley writes in a new piece for the publication, “[g]iven the economic and geopolitical clout rare earths provide the People’s Republic of China, it is no surprise that the government would sponsor a social media attack on projects that threaten this leverage.”

    Followers of ARPN are well-aware of China’s long-standing near-total supply chain monopoly on Rare Earths and know that Beijing is no stranger to weaponizing these tech metals.  The fact that it now appears to engage in cyber warfare aimed at private companies leveraging a “unique attack vector” by weaponizing the NIMBY sentiment should place industry stakeholders and policymakers on high alert, because as John Hultquist, vice president of Mandiant Threat Intelligence, told Defense One:

    “One of the things that’s distinct about Chinese activity, compared to some of their peers, is that they’re always highly economically focused. There’s a whole new group of targets that probably don’t have strong experience dealing with this problem. As that process gets underway, more industries will find themselves the same sort of strategic situation that rare earth metals are now.”

    In the words of Metal Tech News’s Lasley, “the China rare earths dragon awakens.” The question is, are we ready?

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  • 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 tensions are mounting and the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine is being felt around the globe.

    From a critical mineral resource perspective, we at ARPN have always used the occasion of Independence Day to remind ourselves that “while we cherish the freedom we are blessed with in so many ways, we must not become complacent, as there are areas where we’re increasingly becoming less independent” — with our reliance on foreign mineral resources being a case in point.

    The good news is that on the back of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine and growing resource nationalism in the Southern hemisphere, stakeholders have begun to realize the extent of our mineral resource supply chain vulnerabilities, which significantly increased over the course of the past 65 years.

    A case in point:  the U.S. Congress is taking aim strengthening critical mineral supply chains via the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

    A provision in the Senate’s annual defense authorization bill, advanced by the Armed Services Committee earlier this month, contains a provision which would authorize $1 billion in funding for the National Defense Stockpile Transaction Fund for “the acquisition of materials determined to be strategic and critical materials required to meet the defense, industrial, and essential civilian needs of the United States.”

    The fund includes many of the metals and minerals considered essential to national defense supply chains, including rare earth elements, titanium, tungsten, cobalt and antimony, a metal we recently discussed as it has its own provisions incorporated in this year’s senate and house bills, which will need to be reconciled and voted on later this year.

    According to Defense News, the S1 billion senate-sought allocation would cover not only the $253.5 million requested by the Department of Defense (DoD)for FY 2023, but would also allow for the backfilling of multiple funding requests by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a combat-support agency of the DoD, which manages the fund.

    At its peak in 1952, the fund was valued at $42 billion in today’s dollars, but has subsequently been depleted to dip to its current level of $888 million, with lawmakers fearing the National Defense Stockpile becoming insolvent by FY2025 absent congressional action.

    With the end of the Cold War in 1989, Congress authorized the sale of excess stockpile materials with proceeds transferred to DoD or other federal programs.  However, as Maya Clark points out in a Heritage Foundation report from earlier this year, “the threat environment today is more similar to the Cold War than to the 1990s.”

    Clark cites the National Defense Strategy Commission which stated in a 2018 report that “[t]he United States confronts more numerous – and more severe – threats than at any time in decades.”  Fast-forward to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and other geopolitical challenges we’ve discussed over the past few months, and the threat environment is even more severe than it was a mere four years ago.

    The push to boost the United States’ National Defense Stockpile Transaction Fund ties into the overall realization that our nation’s critical mineral woes can no longer be ignored. Additional promising initiatives tying into an overall comprehensive “all-of-the-above” approach are currently being pursued by members of Congress as well as the Administration, and range from increasing cooperation with allies to secure critical mineral resources over leveraging “closed-loop” solutions to boosting domestic production and processing.

    However, as we have previously argued:

    “Those familiar with the inner-workings of Washington, D.C. know all too well that particularly in an election year policy efforts can quickly lose steam or fizzle over attempts to placate certain constituencies. Against all affirmations to strengthen domestic supply chains, the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) sentiment is still strong.”

    As followers of ARPN well know, the stakes are too high to let the momentum for comprehensive reform fizzle.

    At the beginning of this year, we posited the question of whether 2022 could be the year that strengthening tech metal supply chains can move from rhetoric to reality.  As we mark Independence Day 2022, with efforts galvanized by heightened national and economic security concerns, it certainly appears that we are getting closer to that goal.

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  • It’s the Processing, Stupid? The Critical Mineral Supply Chain Challenge Visualized

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This Visual Capitalist graphic may not exactly qualify as a picture – but is certainly reveals a lot about the complexity and urgency of the West’s critical mineral woes, and underscores how China has managed to corner the strategic and clean energy materials supply chain especially when [...]
  • USGS Seeks Public Comment on Draft Revised Critical Minerals List

    On November 9, 2021, the U.S. Geological Survey announced it is seeking public comment, on a draft revised list of critical minerals.  The revised list is the latest development in a broader move towards a more comprehensive mineral resource policy on the part of the U.S. Government — a long-overdue shift that began to gain steam in [...]
  • Wind Turbine Makers’ Price Challenges Sign of Looming Raw Material Shortfalls

    As lawmakers on Capitol Hill are scrambling to finalize major federal spending legislation set to include several key provisions relating to natural resources, a recent Wall Street Journal piece on wind power underscores the urgency of our nation’s looming raw material shortfalls. Against the backdrop of surging demand in the context of the green energy transition, wind [...]
  • Critical Mass: ARPN Commentary on the White House 100-Day Supply Chain Report & the Importance of Critical Minerals to the U.S. Technology Base

    After years of inertia, the Critical Minerals space has seen a lot of activity lately. While the coronavirus pandemic has exposed significant supply chain vulnerabilities and critical mineral resource dependencies, recent studies have highlighted the mineral intensity of the global pursuit of a low carbon energy future. This week’s developments in Washington — movement on [...]
  • 100 Day Supply Chain Report Inspires New Developments in Critical Minerals Realm

    Released at the beginning of June, the White House’s 100 Day Supply Chain report assessed risks and vulnerabilities in the supply chains for four key industrial sectors, making recommendations on how to alleviate them appears to have already inspired several new developments in the critical minerals realm: As the Australian Financial Review’s U.S. correspondent Matthew [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • A First Glimpse: Biden Administration Releases Findings of Extensive Supply Chain Review

    Earlier today, the White House released the findings of its 100-day supply chain review initiated by Executive Order 14017 – “America’s Supply Chains” and announced a set of immediate actions it is looking to take in an effort to strengthen U.S. supply chains “to promote economic security, national security, and good-paying, union jobs here at [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member: Create Framework to “Insulate Domestic Producers from Market Manipulation While Fostering Innovation” in Effort to Decouple From China

    In a recent piece for RealClearDefense Jeffery A. Green, president and founder of J.A. Green & Company, and member of the ARPN panel of experts, outlines a set of four main lines of efforts policy makers should focus on as they develop policy recommendations based on a recent executive order and House task force set [...]

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