American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • New Year, New Round of Tech Wars Escalation?

    Happy New Year! They may say “Out with the Old, in with the New,” but if the waning days of 2023 are any indication of what is to come in 2024, we’ll likely continue down the path we’ve been on for the past twelve months, at least when it comes to the Tech Wars.

    Somewhat lost in the shuffle of work parties, family gatherings and holiday shopping was the Chinese government’s announcement on December 21 that it would ban the export of technology to make rare earth magnets, adding to a ban already in place on extraction and separation technologies for REEs.

    In what Reuters calls an “escalating battle with the West over control of critical minerals,” Beijing significantly tightened rules guiding exports of several metals in 2023. (see ARPN’s reprise post of 2023’s main events in the critical minerals realm for more on China’s tightening of the export control ratchet).

    Don Swartz, CEO of American Rare Earths, a company currently developing a REE mine and processing facility in Wyoming, sees China’s move, which follows a November 2023 directive from the Chinese government to REE exporters to report transaction details, as a clear sign that “China is driven to maintain its market dominance,” with Swartz adding that “[t]his is now a race.”

    Meanwhile, for all the tit for tat in the grander scheme of the Tech Wars and a flurry of activity on the resource policy front, the West has struggled to effectively decouple its critical mineral supply chains from China.

    In the case of rare earths, China, which still accounts for nearly 90% of global refined output, controls the refinement process, and area that has Western REE companies struggling because of “technical complexities and pollution concerns” in the solvent extraction process, as Reuters points out.

    Nonetheless, experts believe the latest announcement should be a clarion call that dependence on China in any part of the value chain is not sustainable.” 

    The West may have kicked off the new year already, but Chinese New Year is still upon us. 2023, the Lunar Year of the Rabbit, was supposed to bring us relaxation, fluidity, quietness and contemplation.”  What we got, was an escalation of the Tech Wars, more resource nationalism and more geopolitical instability.  At the same time, these developments also served as catalysts kicking efforts to strengthen domestic supply chains into high gear.

    With 2024 moving us into the Lunar Year of the Dragon, the overall energy of which is said to be vital and competitive,” we may be in for a tumultuous ride.

    Read ARPN’s Year in Review – A Look at 2023 Through the Prism of Critical Mineral Resource Policy here


  • A New Note From the Front: Chinese Export Restrictions Underscore That to Win Tech War, U.S. Must Diversify Critical Mineral Supply Chains

     With hot wars raging in Central Europe and the Middle East, do we have bandwidth to focus on a war that’s metaphorical – for now, at least:  The Tech War pitting China versus the U.S.?

    Against the backdrop of China’s recently announced restrictions on graphite exports (see ARPN’s coverage here) set to take effect on Friday, the Washington Post zeroes in on China having opened a “next front in the Tech War” that is unfolding between Washington, D.C. and Beijing – Graphite (and clean energy).  Beginning this Friday, exporters of high-grade graphite will have to seek government approval and disclose details of their buyers, allowing Chinese authorities to pick and choose which applications to approve or deny based on national security grounds.

    As Lily Kuo writes for the Post, Beijing has made clear that its latest salvo of critical mineral export restrictions is to be considered “payback for Washington’s efforts to curtail Chinese access to advanced American semiconductors,” and is merely “just the beginning.”   Thus were the words of China’s former commerce minister Wei Jianguo who warned earlier this summer, when Beijing announced the curtailment of gallium and germanium exports, that “China has many means and types of sanctions it can use,” adding that “if restrictions on our high-tech industry continue to escalate, China’s countermeasures will also escalate.”

    Pointing to the fact that the U.S. Government has deemed all three minerals currently targeted by Beijing – graphite, gallium and germanium – critical minerals and the U.S. is import reliant for all three, with China accounting for the largest share of imports to date, Kuo says China’s tightening of the export control ratchet may be Beijing’s “most potent weapon to wield in its competition with Washington, one that could strike at the heart of American efforts to create green jobs while weaning the country off fossil fuels.”

    As ARPN previously outlined, diversifying away from China represents a massive challenge. In the EV battery segment, China “is on track to retain over 85% of the global anode market share by the end of the decade,”according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence data.

    The U.S. has taken several important steps to decouple critical mineral supply chains from China, especially those for battery materials and chip manufacturing in the last few years, ranging from DPA Title III designations and subsequent Department of Defense funding of projects to federal legislation providing funding for projects from the U.S. Department of Energy.

    In the case of graphite, projects currently underway are expected to qualify for the IRA credits, and ultimately help “domesticate” the graphite supply chain, including Graphex’s pitch coating facility coming online in Michigan, and Graphite One Inc.’s effort to establish an all-American mine-to-manufacturing supply chain. Graphite One’s Graphite Creek deposit near Nome, Alaska was recently recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey as the largest U.S. graphite deposit and among the largest in the world, and, since July, the company has been selected for two Department of Defense grants, under the Defense Production Act’s Title III authorities and by the Defense Logistics Agency.

    As tensions mount, rumblings over China blocking American access to rare earths are getting louder, with China’s Commerce Ministry issuing new rules requiring exporters to report details of their overseas shipments, and the People’s Daily running a piece stating, according to Kuo, “there was ‘no mystery’ about whether China would use its rare earths as a ‘counter weapon.’”

    While Kuo says China’s exports controls could kill two birds with one stone by not only punishing the U.S., but also encouraging domestic companies to export finished products rather than raw materials, she argues that the strategy “is not without risks,” and has garnered criticism even within China, as it could – in the case of rare earths -  “weaken the international influence” of China’s REE industry as manufacturers could not only turn to other sources of supply, but move away from using rare earths entirely.

    Tesla made headlines earlier this year saying it would cut REEs from its next-gen EVs, but Tesla is not the only automaker developing low- to zero rare earth content engines. Nissan is reported to pursue a dual strategy to develop both newer EESM (externally excited synchronous machine) motors, but also develop permanent magnet motors that will ultimately eliminate REE content.

    Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has just announced a series of new actions to strengthen U.S. supply chains across the board.  One highly anticipated component is the Department of Defense’s release of a first ever National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS), which, according to the White House, “will guide engagement, policy development, and investment in the defense industrial base over the next three to five years.”

    Whether or not China overplays its hand in the long run is almost beside the point, as, in the short- to medium term its chokehold in the sector is strong, and we know that the country does not shy away from confrontation.   To not fall behind in the Tech War, decoupling our critical mineral supply chains from China must be the name of the game.

    As ARPN previously outlined,

    “In the process, we will have to carefully balance domestic and global policy approaches — as well as public and private sector roles with economic and security concerns to reflect the geopolitical realities of our times.

    And, as followers of ARPN well know, this can be best achieved within the context of a comprehensive all-of-the-above approach that focuses on domestic resource development where possible and leverages partnerships where needed.”

  • Materials Science Revolution Unlocks Technologies and Techniques to Harness Previously Untapped Sources and Increase Material Yield

    As demand for the metals and minerals underpinning the green energy transition continues to surge, the pressure is on for miners to find, explore and develop scores of critical minerals.  Thankfully, the materials science revolution continues to bear fruit, allowing resource companies to employ cutting-edge technology in the quest to meet ever-increasing demand for electric vehicles, [...]
  • As China Ratchets Up Weaponization of Trade, Analysts Call for Massive Investments to Counter Beijing in Critical Minerals Arms Race

    Beijing’s recent decision to impose export restrictions on gallium and germanium – key components of semiconductor, defense and solar technologies — has ruffled feathers around the world and, as ARPN noted, ratchets up the weaponization of trade in the context of the Tech Wars between China and the West. While some chipmakers have played down fears of [...]
  • Turning the Same Stone Twice: Governments, Miners Turn to Mine Tailings to Bolster Critical Mineral Supply Chains

    In their quest to secure critical mineral supply chains against the backdrop of surging demand and rising geopolitical pressures, stakeholders are leaving no stone unturned – quite literally — and have in fact begun turning the same stone twice. As Australia’s Financial Post reports, the Australian government has completed a mapping project of sites containing mine [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]