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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: REE Extraction and Separation From Phosphoric Acid

    The tech war between China and the United States over who will dominate the 21st Century Technology Age is heating up.

    Earlier this week, China’s rare earth producers, who control the vast majority of global REE output, put out a statement declaring they are ready to “use their dominance of the industry as a weapon in the country’s year-long trade war with their customers in the United States.” 

    Against the backdrop of these news, the recent announcement by a Florida startup regarding their successful extraction and separation of rare earth elements out of phosphoric acid becomes all the more meaningful and deserve a feature in our Materials Science Profiles of Progress series.

    As part of this series, we highlight public-private partnerships that are fueling the materials science revolution which is transforming the ways in which we use and obtain metals and minerals and their work to develop practical solutions to critical minerals issues. 

    Using a reusable nano-filtration system called Thor, Precision Periodic, a company based at the University of Central Florida’s Business Incubator Program, successfully extracted and separated REEs out of both phosphoric acid and the resulting waste.

    Earlier in July, as part of a flurry of activity on the part of the U.S. government to spur domestic critical mineral — and especially REE — development, the Trump Administration in July took its own actions to respond to Chinese REE saber rattling and invoked the 69-year old Defense Production Act to spur domestic REE development.

    We can expect to see more of these public-private partnerships take off as the 21st Century Tech Wars evolve.  The stakes are high, and resource supply dynamics are subject to enormous volatility, as the latest developments in the Cobalt realm show.

    Hopefully our policy makers and other stakeholders will continue to press ahead with meaningful resource policy reforms. 

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  • China’s Leverage: Supply Monopoly Shapes U.S. Policy

    In case you were wondering to what extent foreign powers are shaping domestic policy, the UK’s daily The Telegraph has a great overview piece on how “China’s supply of rare minerals, used in products like the iPhone, is causing a headache for Washington.”

    Using one of the most popular telecommunications gadgets – the iPhone – as a case in point to underscore our reliance on foreign mineral resources in general, and specifically the rare earths, The Telegraph goes on to outline the challenges associated with this dependence, which China appears all too willing to exploit, according to recent news reports.

    Write Matthew Field and James Titcomb:

    “China’s apparent willingness to use these metals as a bargaining tool in negotiations has forced the US to explore the possibility of home-grown production.

    (…)

    While it is not clear whether China would follow up on its threat to rare earth supplies, their dominance gives them clear leverage.

    “By controlling the rare earth industry, the Chinese have a strategic advantage in trillions of dollars of downstream industrial value,” Litinsky says.

    The Pentagon has called for responses from miners by the end of the month on how to boost production in the US.

    The Telegraph understands miners have been in crunch meetings in Washington DC as officials assess the challenge ahead.

    For companies like Apple, this dependence has serious consequences they say:

    “While companies like Apple may only use tiny amounts of rare earths in its smartphones, their exposure to a sudden shut down of supply could still have a serious impact, according to analysts. Goldman Sachs told clients that as iPhone production ramps up over the summer, ahead of the next iPhone in September, ‘even a short term action affecting production could have longer term consequences’.

    Apple has publicly said it wants to wean itself off volatile supplies of rare earth mines, but it has proved a challenge. The company has designed a recycling robot, dubbed Daisy, that can strip apart 200 iPhones an hour for recyclable parts.

    But while it is able to isolate the components with rare earth metals, actually recovering the small quantities themselves has proved more challenging. Earlier this year, the company announced a research lab in Texas, aimed at discovering new recycling techniques that could improve reuse to products like rare metals.”

    However, recycling efforts notwithstanding, against the backdrop of the ongoing materials science revolution, the demand for ‘whizzy new features’ will continue to fuel demand for rare earths and other critical metals and minerals.

    When it comes to mineral resources, the only way to reduce foreign influence over U.S. domestic policy is to minimize — to the extent possible — our over-reliance on foreign metals and minerals. It appears the message is finally resonating. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) American Mineral Security Act, for example, passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this month.

    Here’s hoping policy makers don’t let the momentum for comprehensive reform fizzle. Too much is at stake.

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  • China’s Grand Strategy to Exploit United States’ “Soft Underbelly” Goes Beyond Rare Earths

    Much is being made of China’s recent threats to cut off Rare Earth exports to the United States, and the issue has – finally – helped bring the issue of mineral resource policy reform to the forefront.  However, as Ian Easton, research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and author of The Chinese Invasion Threat, [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Penn State University Launches Center for Critical Minerals

    Against the backdrop of a growing awareness of our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources — one need to look no further than the current coverage of China’s threat to play the “rare earths card” — Penn State University is launching a Center for Critical Minerals. Under the auspices of the College of Earth and Mineral [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty Quoted in Daily Caller Piece on the Specter of China Playing the “Rare Earths Card”

    Reporting for the Daily Caller, Michael Bastasch zeroes in on what has once again become a hot button issue – Rare Earth Elements (REEs) in the context of trade relations, as reported Chinese threats to “escalate its trade dispute with the Trump administration to include rare earth minerals has, once again, shined a spotlight on U.S. [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • ARPN Expert: To Counter China’s Mineral Resource Dominance, U.S. Apathy About Critical Minerals Must End  

    Followers of ARPN know that China is the big elephant in the room when it comes to the United States’ critical mineral resource supply issues.  As ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, an adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, and “Rare Mettle” author Ann Bridges write in [...]
  • While Some Reforms Fizzled, Enacted NDAA Contains Potentially Precedent-Setting REE Sourcing Provision

    As we have noted, the recently-signed John S. McCain (may he rest in peace) National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), stands as a missed opportunity to enact several meaningful mineral resource policy reforms. Nonetheless, one provision of the signed legislation marks an important development for the realm of resource policy – [...]
  • Rare Earths Issue Back in the Mix As Trade Tensions With China Escalate

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the inter-relationship between resource policy and trade policy. While more recently, we looked at tensions in our relationship with Canada over tariffs on aluminum and steel, other areas of concern are coming into focus. Mounting tensions over trade with China have brought the Rare Earths issue, with which ARPN [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Researchers Turn to Bioengineered Bacteria to Recover REEs

    Followers of ARPN are well aware that we have been calling out policy makers and other stakeholders for their inaction when it comes to working towards the development of a coherent, forward-looking and comprehensive mineral resource strategy – and we frequently point to missed opportunities to work towards this goal. While we stand by our [...]

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