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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • New Year’s Resolutions for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    If you’re one of nearly half of all Americans, you will have already made a few New Year’s resolutions for 2018.   Among the most popular are personal betterment goals like “losing weight,” and “exercising more.”  While we’re all for making personal resolutions, at ARPN, we’re more concerned with the goals our policy makers are setting for themselves this year.

    After several months that presented us with a number of individual initiatives that represented progress in the mineral resource policy realm, yet still lacked an overarching strategic focus, we ended 2017 on a high note:

    On December 19, USGS released its Professional Paper 1802 – the first update in 44 years — entitled “Critical Minerals of the United States” which discusses 23 mineral commodities USGS deems critical to the United States’ national security and economic wellbeing.  Only a day later, a new Executive Order called for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to publish within 60 days a list of critical minerals to be followed by a strategy to reduce our nation’s reliance on critical minerals, among other things.

    These early Christmas presents are setting the stage for real reform in mineral resource policy in 2018. However, for meaningful change to take hold, there are a few suggested resolutions all stakeholders – and not just department heads in charge of formulating a mineral resource strategy – should consider making:

    Have a national policy conversation 

    • National security, manufacturing, jobs and the economy, alternative energy and technology development:  Policy discussions on all of these priorities are a constant of American political life – yet the minerals and metals that are key to all of these issues receive scant attention.  That’s got to change in 2018.  While agency and department heads are in charge of rolling out a critical minerals strategy, what is needed in the coming months is a broad national conversation about our nation’s mineral needs and our over-reliance on foreign sources of supply, involving a broad variety of stakeholders from both the private and public sectors.


    Read!

    • The USGS’s “Critical Minerals of the United States” report – which weighs in at a hefty 852 pages – is a must-read document for all stakeholders involved to develop an understanding of U.S. mineral resource needs and sources of supply, and should form the basis for any meaningful policy discussions in 2018.  ARPN knows how the Congress works; let’s hope Members delegate a key staffer or several to divvy up the USGS tome and really get familiar with it.
    • Furthermore, there are a few other studies to be released in the early months of the year, among them the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries and Behre Dolbear’s survey of mining jurisdictions called “Where to Invest.”
    • For good measure, we’d also like to invite everyone again to read our two policy reports “Reviewing Risk: Critical Metals and National Security” and “Through the Gateway: Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology.”  In terms of sheer page-count, this is the place to start:  Think of them as the Spark Notes of critical minerals strategy.


    Zero in on the Gateway Metal/Co-Product Interrelationship

    • This one is wonky, but necessary.  Of the 23 minerals deemed “critical” by USGS several are materials ARPN has frequently discussed as part of our informational campaign to highlight the importance of “Co-Product Metals and Minerals” –  i.e. materials that are generally not mined as stand-alone metals but are mostly “unlocked” in the refining process of their “Gateway Metals.”  Harnessing the interrelationship between Gateway Metals – which include mainstay metals like Copper, Aluminum, Nickel, Tin and Zinc  – and their Co-Products, many of which are increasingly becoming the building blocks of 21st Century technology, should be a focal point of any critical mineral resource strategy.  And while ARPN celebrates the USGS “list of 23,” we have to note that of the 5 Gateway metals, only one – tin – appears on the list, even though the other four – copper, zinc, aluminum and nickel – are “gateways” to more than a half-dozen minerals that do make the USGS list.
    • Ready to learn more?  Aside from our Gateway Metals report, follow this link to Thomas Graedel et al.’s effort to illuminate this issue in their 2015 study entitled “By-product metals are technologically essential but have problematic supply” 


    Enact legislation

    • As we previously noted, “as important as Executive Orders are, they are not legislation, and history has shown that policy that is set and enacted by the stroke of the Presidential pen can just as easily be undone. Ultimately, for any real progress to grab hold and develop staying power, codification of any reforms yielded by these orders through Congressional action is highly desirable.” 

    So, our three resolutions come down to:  Discuss, Read – and Act.  Let’s look back at 2018 as the year a new and comprehensive critical minerals strategy helped make the U.S. stronger and safer.

    There’s more to be considered, but if policy makers and other stakeholders start with these resolutions, they’ll be well-positioned to “develop a comprehensive federal action plan to encourage domestic resource production, through mining, recycling and reclamation.”

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  • North Korean Brinkmanship Highlights Nexus Between Resource Policy and Geopolitics

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the important but oft-overlooked nexus between resource policy and geopolitics.   The latest case in point is South Korea, which, as ARPN President Daniel McGroarty points out in his latest opinion piece for Fox News, is navigating murky waters “talking sunshine and Rare Earths as North Korean war clouds gather.”

    For decades, South Korea has acquired strategic mineral resources it requires for its domestic high-tech industries from its sworn enemy North Korea via the South Korean state owned resource corporation KORES, which also happens to be 50% owner of North Korea’s largest graphite mine.

    Rumored nuclear warhead testing on behalf of the Pyongyang regime has triggered an “unusual degree of collaboration” between U.S. and Chinese leaders to discuss Kim Jong Un’s brinkmanship.  And while South Korea did shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the wake of its Northern neighbors’ 2016 nuclear tests, now, with South Korea’s presidential election to be held on May 9, leaders are not only mulling the prospect of re-opening said complex, but to even expand it.

    The question is “why South Korea sees North Korea – its sworn enemy – as a source for those materials, in the face of strong evidence that the revenue generated from those purchases is funneled into financing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.” 

    Says McGroarty:

    “South Korea can’t have it both ways. It can’t claim be under an existential threat from Kim Jong Un, only to reopen a hard currency spigot that will keep Kim and his cronies in power, and fund a nuclear weapons capability that will – by 2020, some national security experts say —  threaten the continental United States itself.”  

    McGroarty argues that South Korea would be well-advised to begin working with American suppliers to develop new non-North Korean sources of critical metals and minerals. After all, he says:

    “With U.S. naval strike groups sent North Korea’s way and calls for the expedited deployment of THAAD missile defense systems ringing out, one thing is certain:  It’s going to be very hard to convince the American people to go to the brink with a nuclear-armed madman on behalf of an ally who has helped bankroll the nuclear weapons arrayed against it.”     

    Resource policy does not occur in a vacuum — and that’s a message that should not just resonate with South Korea’s political leaders, but U.S. policy makers as well.

    Read the full opinion piece on Fox News here.

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  • Through the Gateway: Of Diaper Rash Cream, Fertilizer and Battery Technology – A Look at Zinc

    If you’re a parent of young children, you’ll probably appreciate Zinc for its medicinal properties – a good diaper rash cream or sunscreen for the little ones comes with a good dose of Zinc oxide. Otherwise, you may have come across this metal primarily as an anti-corrosion agent used to prevent metals like steel and iron from [...]
  • Through the Gateway: The Geopolitics of Co-Product Supply – a Look at Scandium

    Throughout ARPN’s work, we have consistently highlighted the geopolitical dimension of mineral resource policy.  Where we source (or fail to source) our metals and minerals is an often forgotten – or ignored – factor, with implications for our domestic manufacturers, and, at times, even for our national security. Case in point – and in keeping [...]
  • Food for thought for world leaders discussing climate change

    This week, world leaders are gathering in Paris to push for an agreement on climate change, which could spell the end of the fossil era, and ring in the age of post-carbon technology.  In a recent piece for the New York Times, David S. Abraham points to an important, yet oft-ignored paradox: “(…) even as our leaders [...]
  • European Union seeks close cooperation with Greenland to fulfill resource needs

    In an effort to secure access to critical metals and minerals for its industries, European Commission representatives Antonio Tajani (Vice President), and Andris Piebalgs (Commisisoner for Development Cooperation) have signed a letter of intent on cooperation with Greenland’s Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist. The June 13 letter of intent covers cooperation in the areas of joint [...]
  • Miners pull out of Argentina over populist measures

    A cautionary tale comes to us from Argentina, where major resource companies are increasingly shying away from investments in light of growing populism on the part of the Argentinian government. The latest company to pull out of the country is Cameco Corp, a major Uranium producer, announcing the end to a joint-venture exploration project with [...]
  • With China taking the lead, global resource race heats up in Africa

    A lengthy piece in the Asia Times online edition discusses China’s ever-increasing footprint in Africa, arguing that this manifestation of China replacing the West as the “dominant economic and political force in Africa epitomizes the most dramatic shift in geopolitics since the collapse of the Soviet Union.” In its global quest for mineral resources, China [...]
  • Canadian paper warns of new Cold War over arctic riches

    Working to implement a “strategy to reverse years of neglect and decline in its Far North,” Russia appears ready to re-embrace a Cold War, according to a detailed story in the Toronto Star.  Home to vast mineral resources including oil, zinc, and gold, for example, the Arctic is viewed by Russia as its strategic future, [...]
  • Demand for critical mineral lithium likely to increase thanks to new technology

    Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a technology for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that allows them to hold a charge ten times longer than current batteries, and charge ten times faster, according to R&D Magazine.  Going forward, the engineers are looking to develop a new safety mechanism for lithium-ion batteries prompting them to automatically and reversibly [...]

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