American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Gallium, Germanium, Graphite… and Now REEs – China Further Tightens Critical Mineral Export Restriction Ratchet

    Only weeks before a planned November summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart, U.S. President Joe Biden, China’s commerce department has announced a new set of critical mineral export restrictions against what Nikkei Asia refers to as “a backdrop of domestic calls for a response to stricter limits on U.S. semiconductor exports to China.”

    According to Nikkei, as part of the new restrictions, which will be in place until the end of October of 2025, the commerce department has added rare earths, including compounds and alloys to its “list of mineral resources and other items requiring disclosure of information such as material type and export destinations.”

    The move ties into an overall context of export controls are gaining in popularity as the global race for resources heats up. India joined the ranks of countries considering export restrictions this August, and Kenya made similar headlines in October.  Zimbabwe banned lithium ore exports last December, and Namibia recently banned the export of unprocessed lithium and other critical minerals.

    All these announcement tie into a larger trend, which has been noticeable particularly in Latin America, a region with a historic penchant for nationalism, but also elsewhere. ARPN has featured recent nationalist moves in Chile, Mexico and Bolivia, as well as in Myanmar, Indonesia, and China, and has showcased that even in the Western world, government involvement in the critical minerals sector is on the rise.

    Of course, in light of Beijing’s dominating role in critical mineral supply chains and the current state of global affairs, China’s announcements relating to critical mineral export restrictions are not only highly consequential for U.S. domestic industry stakeholders, but must also be viewed through the prism of geopolitics, and as such U.S. national and economic security.

    As Nikkei outlines, the U.S. has in recent years worked with Western allies to tighten exports of top-end semiconductors and chipmaking equipment to China, prompting Beijing to respond by considering banning “exports of manufacturing technology for high-performance magnets and other products that use rare earths” at the end of 2022.

    Earlier this summer, China announced export restrictions on gallium and germanium, followed by controls on certain drones and drone-related equipment.  On October 20th, Beijing tightened the export control ratchet further – this time by announcing that to protect national security, the country require export permits for certain graphite products – a move analysts see as a play “to control supplies of critical minerals in response to challenges over its global manufacturing dominance.”

    From a functional perspective, Chinese restrictions now extend to three of the key tech building blocs of the 21st century:

    -       Semiconductors (gallium/germanium)

    -       Lithium-ion battery technology (graphite)

    -       Permanent magnets (REEs)

    As geopolitical tensions soar, this may not be the end of it. As ARPN stated before:

    “As China ratchets up its export control regime (…) U.S. stakeholders would be well-advised to kick their efforts to bolster U.S. critical mineral supply chains into high gear.   For China – a ‘country of concern’ as per an August 9, 2023 Executive Order - it may be a short step from export controls to export embargoes.”

  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]