American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Groundhog Day 2023 – Another Year of Critical Mineral Resource Dependence? USGS Releases Annual Mineral Commodity Summaries Report

    Earlier this week, USGS released its latest iteration of the annual Mineral Commodity Summaries, a much-cited report that every year gives us a data-driven glimpse into our nation’s mineral resource dependencies.

    It’s fitting that ARPN reviews the report on Groundhog Day, February 2nd, because just like in the Bill Murray classic movie, in which the clock jumps back to the same day all over again every morning, the Critical Mineral movie appears to bring us back to a situation of ongoing deep dependency on foreign sourced metals and minerals every year – at least in recent memory.

    While there are some changes from last year’s report, the number of metals and minerals for which we are 100% import dependent dropped by two from 17 to 15, the only significant change here is a drop for Vanadium, with recalculations made for overall import reliance suggesting that its inclusion in the 100% segment has been overstated for several years. (The drop for nepheline syenite from 100% to greater than 95% is less significant, with the numerical drop small and material not featuring on the critical minerals list.)

    And for all the talk about reducing the United States’ resource dependence in recent years,  a deeper look at the chart depicting U.S. Net Import Reliance — or the “Blue Wall of Dependency,” as we have dubbed it based on the many blue bars showing our significant degree of import dependence, reveals that the number of metals and minerals for which we are 50% or more import-dependent has even gone up over last year — with the new report pegging it at 51 versus 47 in 2022.

    When cross-referencing the U.S. Net Import Reliance chart with the 2022 Final list of Critical Minerals, the United States was 100% net import reliant for 12, and an additional 31 critical mineral commodities (including 14 lanthanides, which are listed under rare earths) had a net import reliance greater than 50% of apparent consumption.

    Once more, we can’t help but observe that this represents a stark contrast to our import reliance for metals and minerals in 1984, when we were 100% import reliant for just 11 mineral commodities.

    A few changes for individual metals and minerals included in the report are notable and significant, particularly in the context of the accelerating global green energy transition:

    For the Rare Earths, a key group of tech metals underpinning 21st Century technology and the accelerating green energy transition, our import reliance had dropped from 100% in the 2021 report to “greater than 90%” in the 2022 report. It is now back up to “greater than 95%”, and the rare earth concentrate being extracted in the U.S. currently sent to China for separation.  Once again, a single link lacking in a supply chain continues U.S. dependency.

    For Lithium, perhaps the most frequently cited battery tech mineral, and Cobalt, another one of Lithium’s “battery critical” peers, U.S. import reliance stayed the same at “greater than 25%” for lithium, and Cobalt at 76% respectively.

    For Graphite and Manganese, both battery criticals – the USGS report shows both still pegged at an unchanged 100% import reliance.

    For Nickel, the final battery critical and a new element on the 2022 Critical Mineral List, import-reliance jumped from 48% last year to 56% in this year’s report.

    In upcoming posts, ARPN will focus on each of these battery criticals, and the U.S.-based projects working to urgently needed new supply into production.

    As in previous iterations of the report, China continues to be the elephant in the data room. And against all pledges in recent years for the United States to reduce import reliance on supplies from China, the 2022 Mineral Commodity Summaries lists still China an unchanged 25 times as one of the major import sources of metals and minerals for which our net import reliance is 50% or greater – and recent developments in China show that the country has no intention of loosening its grip on the critical minerals supply chain [see our recent posts on Chinese resource policy here].

    Owing to the growing focus on critical minerals on the part of U.S. policy stakeholders, this year’s Mineral Commodity Summaries report features an expanded chapter on developments in the critical minerals realm, identifying trend lines, and supply chain security and U.S. government critical minerals initiatives as well as critical mineral investments.

    While the urgency of the need to secure critical mineral supply chains has registered with stakeholders over the past few years, USGS’s findings underscore once more that supply chains in the 21st Century are extremely complex and meaningful change takes time – and the developments of 2022 ranging from increased resource nationalism in the Southern hemisphere over war in Ukraine to rising geopolitical tensions have not made untangling supply chains any easier.

    In Bill Murray’s movie, it took the protagonist several years to realize how to change behavior to break the cycle.  We know by now that to break our cycle of resource dependence, it will take a comprehensive “all of the above” approach to critical mineral resource policy – and stakeholders have come to realize this and have increasingly embraced the concept.  We continue to stand by what ARPN’s Dan McGroarty stated during a congressional hearing in 2019 – “we can’t admire the problem anymore. We don’t have the luxury of time.”

    If we act swiftly and comprehensively, there may just be a chance that we will wake up twelve months from now not to another Groundhog Day, but to a 2024 Mineral Commodity Summaries that paints a picture of reduced resource dependence.

  • 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?

  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]