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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 2018, when the Department of the Interior released the nation’s first list of metals and minerals deemed critical for U.S. economic and national security.

    The 2018 list was developed in consultation with other cabinet agencies pursuant to Executive Order 13817, and set off a flurry of activities relating to critical mineral resource policy.  Later codified into law, the Critical Minerals List statute directs that “…the methodology and list shall be reviewed at least every 3 years.”  The 2021 revised list is the first such review.

    In those three years, as friends of ARPN appreciate, a lot has happened.  The ongoing coronavirus pandemic caused a global health crisis, threw markets into turmoil and disrupted public life, and trained  a spotlight on the complexities and vulnerabilities of supply chains — not only for medical or food supplies and consumer goods, but also for critical minerals.

    Meanwhile, against the backdrop of an accelerating global push towards a carbon-neutral energy future, a series of studies make it increasingly clear that this push cannot succeed without massive inputs of critical minerals.  As the World Bank and IEA have concluded — and as Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Director of the Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines told members of Congress after the publication of the first Critical Minerals List — “the future energy system will be far more mineral and metal-intensive than it is today.”

    With pressures mounting, and policy makers grappling with the new realities of 21st Century resource policy imperatives, it is only appropriate that 2021 sees an update to the U.S. Government’s 2018 Critical Minerals List.

    While the 2018 list comprised 35 metals and minerals, this year’s draft update has grown to 50, and includes the following:

    “Aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barite, beryllium, bismuth, cerium, cesium, chromium, cobalt, dysprosium, erbium, europium, fluorspar, gadolinium, gallium, germanium, graphite, hafnium, holmium, indium, iridium, lanthanum, lithium, lutetium, magnesium, manganese, neodymium, nickel, niobium, palladium, platinum, praseodymium, rhodium, rubidium, ruthenium, samarium, scandium, tantalum, tellurium, terbium, thulium, tin, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, ytterbium, yttrium, zinc, and zirconium.”

    Recognizing the REEs and PGMs

    As USGS explains, “[m]uch of the increase in the number of mineral commodities, from 35 commodities and groups on the final 2018 list to 50 commodities on the 2021 draft list, is the result of splitting the rare earth elements and platinum group elements into individual entries rather than including them as mineral groups.”

    ARPN sees this additional articulation as a welcome development.  Not all Rare Earths are created equal, and the 2018 List’s generic category of REEs, plus a separate listing for the non-lanthanide Scandium, masked the myriad technological and market-driven differences between the individual 17 Rare Earths.  By referencing 16 REEs – only lab-synthesized Prometheum remains off-list — the 2021 Critical Mineral List invites a more granular approach to a remarkably versatile group.  The same is true of the smaller set of Platinum Group Metals, where only Osmium fell short of list-worthiness.

    More on this in future posts, but for now – suffice to say that this broader articulation will encourage policymakers to understand that Rare Earth and PGM deposits can and will differ in the degree to which they afford access to the full range of these key materials.

    Additions and Subtractions

    USGS goes on to note that in addition to the REE and PGM build-out, “the 2021 draft list adds nickel and zinc and removes helium, potash, rhenium, and strontium.”   Uranium, too, disappears from the List, on a procedural technicality.

    Leading up to the release of the final 2018 list, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty had submitted public comments calling for the inclusion of Copper, Zinc, Nickel and Lead into the list, so we’re pleased to see that two of those four are included in the 2021 draft list.  That said, the rationale for adding Copper and, to a lesser degree, Lead remains strong.

    The de-listing of rhenium and strontium deserve closer examination, for a variety of reasons – another subject for a future post.

    For now, and by way of a final, first look, the new Critical Minerals List bumps the total number of elements to 50 – essentially half of the naturally-occurring elements on the Periodic Table.  As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty noted in his keynote at the Australian In the Zone conference in 2019 that’s proof of the role these materials play in our Tech Metal Era – and of the scope of the challenge we face in discovering and developing robust and reliable sources of such a multitude of critical resources.

    As the public comment period commences, ARPN will be covering developments surrounding the new draft list in the weeks to come, so stay tuned for updates.

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  • 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 turbine makers, all of whom lost some of the “wind in their sails” in 2021 amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, are increasingly facing rising commodity prices.

    Writes WSJ’s aRochelle Toplensky:

     “Commodities such as steel, polymers, copper and rare earth elements make up about 19% of the total cost of onshore turbines and 13% of offshore ones, according to analysts at Bernstein. The price of steel—the most significant raw material—has nearly doubled this year.”

    It’s a sign of what’s to come as nations continue their accelerated push towards carbon neutrality. The mineral intensity of a low-carbon future has critical metals and minerals demand scenarios skyrocketing — and it’s not just battery materials (Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel and Graphite) and the Rare Earths, which appear to be grabbing all the headlines these days.

    As we recently pointed out, Copper — may well be the unsung hero of the green energy transition — and is, quite possibly, one of the most “Critical Non-Criticals.” As we note in ARPN’s recent report, Critical Mass:

     “Less flashy and headline-grabbing than some of its tech metal peers, this mainstay mineral deserves far more credit and attention than it is currently getting.  Followers of ARPN will know that we have long touted the versatility, stemming from its traditional uses, new applications and Gateway Metal status.

    Copper is also an irreplaceable component for advanced energy technology, ranging from EVs over wind turbines and solar panels to the electric grid.   The manufacturing process for EVs requires four times more Copper than gas powered vehicles, and the expansion of electricity networks will lead to more than doubled Copper demand for grid lines, according to the IEA.”

    We featured a recent graphic by Visual Capitalist depicting the Copper intensity of the energy transition with a view towards solar and onshore and offshore wind energy technology:

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    Current developments in Washington, D.C., including some of the spending provisions contained in the reconciliation and infrastructure packages, as well as announcements of new EV goals and fuel efficiency standards — will only add to the critical material demand scenarios.  Rising prices for wind-critical materials like Copper, REEs and steel are just one indicator that the only way to moderate the mineral intensity of the low-carbon future is to develop more sources of supply.

     

     

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  • 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 [...]
  • To-Be-Devised Rare Earths Policies Should Tie Into Broader “All of the Above” Approach to Critical Mineral Resource Policy

    As the Biden Administration doubles down on its ambitious climate and technology agenda, it becomes increasingly clear that the issue of material inputs underpinning a green energy transition must be addressed. Followers of ARPN know — not least since last year’s World Bank report or last week’s IEA report — that massive supplies of EV [...]
  • A Pivotal Moment to “Get Serious About Building the Domestic Mineral Supply Chain”

    Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order instructing his economic and national security teams to conduct a 100 day review of four key U.S. supply chains across federal agencies to assess the nation’s “resiliency and capacity of the American manufacturing supply chains and defense industrial base to support national security [and] emergency [...]
  • China’s Saber-Rattling over Rare Earths Card Getting Louder

    After months of rumblings, it appears that China is gearing up to play its “rare earths card” again. Citing people involved in a government consultation, the Financial Times reports that Beijing is gauging exactly how badly companies in the United States and Europe, including U.S. defense contractors, would be affected by plans to restrict exports [...]

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