American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The Pitfalls of Decoupling – A Look at Europe’s REE Supply Chain Push

    The coronavirus pandemic and associated supply shocks, surging demand for critical minerals against the backdrop of an accelerating global push to net zero carbon emissions, as well as rising geopolitical tensions on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the looming tech war between China and the West have catapulted the issue of securing critical mineral supply chains to top of policy agendas around the globe.

    Concerns over China’s dominance over a large majority of the key critical mineral value chains has spurred efforts to decouple supply chains from China all over the globe.

    Followers of ARPN are aware of U.S. efforts which include the invocation of the Defense Production Act for several critical minerals, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and partnership agreements with key allies as well as public-private partnership to bolster domestic critical mineral supply chains.

    In Europe, the January 2023 announcement of the discovery of one of the largest rare earth elements (REE) deposits in Europe in the Kiruna mine located Sweden’s Lapland region was hailed by some as the advent of a new dawn for European resource policy, and European Union stakeholders hope that the recently released Critical Raw Materials Act, if passed, will jump start the reshoring process and “de-risk” the regional bloc’s reliance on China by streamlining the permitting process for raw materials projects and allow for selected “Strategic Projects” to benefit from support for access to financing and shorter permitting timelines.

    However, as Luke Patey outlines in a piece on the European REE supply chain push for the China-focused online magazine The Wire, the process of “decoupling” is fraught with more significant real-world challenges than some would have thought considering the complexity of critical mineral supply chains, and especially REE supply chains.

    For all the upbeat coverage of the Kiruna mine’s new deposit, Patey points to observers in the industry who are more cautious noting that China has “invested tens, if not, hundreds of billions of dollars in research and production to build up its industry over many years,” and cautioning that finding the REE deposits is “just step one.”

    As he writes, “[t]he EU now faces the meticulous task of ticking off all nodes of the supply chain to turn its green aspirations into an industrial reality” – from mine to manufacturing – and the midstream steps of building out processing capacity, metallization and magnet making are all “steps that the EU is sorely lacking in.”

    A visual of the geographical concentration of the REE permanent magnets value chain and final applications developed by the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) and modified by The Wire tells the story of China’s dominance:

    Image 4-27-23 at 11.40 AM

    Ultimately, Patey says:

    “Reshoring, in other words, is more than just reclaiming the anchor of the supply chain. For Europe — and the U.S. — to succeed in their new critical mineral ambitions, they will need to build out links far beyond the mine.” 

    He adds that while these efforts are underway “[t]he elephant in the room is that, even if they all succeed, doing all these steps on European soil does not automatically make them competitive with Chinese suppliers — both on price and on tech know-how.”

    Meanwhile, efforts to build mine to manufacturing supply chains for critical minerals, and especially REEs, continue to run into the “not in my backyard” challenge — an issue that continues to permeate policy discussions on this side of the Atlantic as well. As Patey phrases it, “the rare earths supply chain blends together not only challenges of national security and industrial competitiveness, but also economic and ecological welfare,” and while the newly released Critical Raw Materials Act intends to address these challenges, critical mineral extraction still faces local resistance in many parts of the regional bloc.

    It is a daunting challenge; however, it is one that stakeholders – here, across the Atlantic, or elsewhere – have to tackle comprehensively and swiftly.  China has already demonstrated its willingness to play politics with its resource leverage – and, as ARPN recently outlined, is gearing up to do it again as the weaponization of trade is back on the menu in U.S.-Chinese relations.

  • Russia Pushes for Global Rare Earth Market Share as U.S. Struggles to Move Forward With Critical Minerals Initiatives

    Russia is certainly making headlines this week. 

    Quite obviously, much of the media attention is focused around President Vladimir Putin’s declaration that Russia has approved a vaccine for the coronavirus (after less than two months of testing) — but developments in the critical minerals realm also warrant attention:

    A top Russian government official has told Reuters that Russia plans an investment of $1.5 billion in rare earth minerals in its quest to become the biggest REE producer after China by 2030.

    The move comes at a time when other countries, including the United States, are trying to curb their over-reliance on foreign critical minerals against the backdrop of growing tensions with China, which has long held the pole position in the race to control the global REE supply chain.

    According to Reuters, Russia is looking to attract investors for eleven projects designed to increase the country’s share of global REE output to 10% by 2030, allowing for Russia to “become almost self-sufficient in rare earth elements by 2025 and start exports in 2026.”

    While it appeared that U.S. efforts to promote domestic critical mineral resource development were finally gaining traction in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic having laid bare our mineral resource supply chain challenges and over-reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) supplies, policy may once more become the victim of politics in this watershed election year. 

    Reform-minded lawmakers have put forth several legislative initiatives, and have even formed a bipartisan “Critical Materials Caucus.”  However, while critical minerals provisions were added to the latest round of COVID relief stimulus packages, chances of their passage have been dwindling as partisan tensions continue to flare.
    As attempts to keep the momentum for resource-related policy reform appear to have come to an impasse in Congress, researchers are forging ahead to provide innovative solutions that not only transform the way we use certain metals and minerals, but have the potential to help alleviate our over-reliance issues. 

    The Department of Energy has stepped up its efforts to promote collaboration between its research hubs and the private sector to look for ways to diversify mineral resource supply, develop substitutes and drive recycling of critical minerals and rare earth elements. Some recent initiatives include “using a high-speed shredder that turns old computer hard drives into scrap containing significant amounts of REE content,” and “recovering nickel, cobalt and manganese from disassembled electric vehicle battery packs.”

    Meanwhile, in the private sector, a rare earths pilot plant processing facility situated in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, which will focus on group separation on REEs in to heavy, middle, and light rare earths, has received the required permits and officially opened. According to media reports“USA Rare Earth’s pilot plant is the second link in a 100% US-based rare earth oxide supply chain, drawing on feedstock from its Round Top deposit.”

    Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit,  the U.S. had begun to enter into cooperative agreements with allied nations to ensure future supplies of critical materials, specifically with Canada and Australia. 

    Against the backdrop of the upcoming 2020 elections, finding policy consensus may be more than an uphill battle.  However, for the sake of our national security and economic wellbeing, lawmakers would be well-advised to reach out across the political aisle to foster a policy environment that promotes an all-of-the-above approach on critical minerals and harnesses the United States’ vast domestic mineral potential.   

  • McGroarty: Tech Wars Heat Up – Administration Invokes Defense Production Act to Spur Domestic REE Development

    ARPN’s Dan McGroarty discusses President Trump’s decision to invoke the Defense Production Act to spur domestic REE development for The Economic Standard: The Tech Wars Heat Up: U.S. Makes National Security Declarations to Spur Rare Earths Development Forget the trade war – the tech war is heating up.  After weeks of Chinese threats that it [...]
  • Podcast: ARPN’s Dan McGroarty Discusses U.S.-Chinese Trade Tensions Over REEs

    As the world looks towards Osaka, Japan, where world leaders will gather for the 2019 G20 Summit and Ministerial meetings later this week, former Missouri Speaker of the House Tim Jones discusses the current trade conflict between the United States and China and the implications of the looming supply disruptions for U.S. domestic industries as [...]
  • Global Times: REE Supply Restrictions Likely for U.S. Military Equipment Firms

    The specter of China playing the “rare earths card” is looming larger this week.   According to the Global Times’s twitter feed, U.S. military equipment firms will likely face restrictions of Chinese Rare Earth supplies in the near future, as China’s economic planners will “study and roll out policies on rare earths as soon as possible.”     [...]
  • 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. [...]
  • 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 – [...]
  • “Materials Science Profiles of Progress” – REE Extraction From Coal

    In the fairy tale realm, Rumpelstilskin was able to turn straw into gold. Meanwhile, in the real world, as part of our feature series “Materials Science Profiles of Progress,” we’re taking a closer look at a recently-announced research partnership that may not be able to turn straw into gold, but promises to extract precious Rare [...]
  • Critical Materials Institute Meets “Stretch Goal” to Produce REE Magnet Domestically

    Meeting one of its “stretch goal[s] to demonstrate that rare-earth magnets could be produced from mine to manufacturer, here in the United States,” the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub, has announced that the has fabricated magnets made entirely of domestically sourced and refined REEs.  This success was achieved in [...]
  • Japan Pursuing Long-Term Critical Mineral Strategy in Kazakhstan

    In an effort to secure ongoing access to Rare Earths (REEs) for its domestic industries, Japan, which in geological terms does not have much of a resource profile, has entered into a series of cooperative agreements with Kazakhstan, a nation quickly ascending into the league of top REE suppliers in the world. The latest one [...]