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  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski

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  • Alaska Holds Key to Addressing Our Nation’s “Achilles Heel” – Conference Shifts Policy Community’s Focus on Critical Minerals in the Arctic

    The global push towards net zero carbon emissions against the backdrop of rising geopolitical tensions and associated supply chain challenges has undoubtedly directed stakeholder attention to the need to strengthen critical mineral supply chains.

    However, as followers of ARPN well know, the challenges of detangling supply chains and decoupling from adversary nations, i.e. China, are immense, and warrant a comprehensive all-of-the-above approach to mineral resource security.

    A recent policy event in Washington, DC has brought the focus back to an area that holds great promise for the U.S. as it seeks to re-shore its critical mineral supply chains: Alaska.

    A two-day summit hosted las week by the Department of Energy Arctic Energy Office, the Wilson Center, Rand Corp. and the University of Alaska entitled “Critical Minerals in the Arctic: Forging the Path Forward” brought together state and federal policy leaders – including ARPN’s Dan McGroarty, who served as co-moderator of one of the non-public panels — to advance “policy recommendations for development of critical mineral resources in the Arctic, in the context of U.S. national security, energy, climate, and technology goals.” 

    The event built upon an inaugural August 2022 conference entitled “Alaska’s Minerals: A Strategic National Imperative” hosted by the University of Alaska, U.S. Arctic Research Commission and the Wilson Center, which coincided with a USGS announcement that the state was slated to receive more than $6.75 million in funding for geologic mapping, airborne geophysical surveying, and geochemical sampling in support of critical mineral resource studies in the state.

    The funding has merit.

    As Brett Watson, assistant professor of applied and natural resource economics at the Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska, Anchorage, Steven Masterman, affiliate of University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and Erin Whitney, Director of the Arctic Energy office, U.S. Department of Energy wrote in a read ahead document for the event,

    “Alaska’s complex geological history has led to formation of a wide array of mineral deposit types containing commodities many list as critical. Alaska either has, is, or could produce almost all of the commodities on the US Geological Survey’s 2022 list of critical minerals. Alaska is the largest producer of zinc in the nation, contains the nation’s largest graphite deposit, is the state with the only domestic tin resources and, has been a producer of critical minerals in times of national need, e.g. During WWII Alaska contributed tin, PGE’s, chrome, tungsten and antimony for the war effort. Most of the commodities produced to support the war effort have not been significantly produced since, and the resources remain in place, creating a ripe environment for meeting the nations need for these critical minerals.”

    Keynoting the event’s second day, Alaskan U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski cited China’s recent decision to impose export restrictions on gallium and germanium as a real time example of critical minerals really being our nation’s “Achilles Heel.”   While acknowledging that progress has been made – Murkowski cited the U.S. government’s Critical Minerals List and key pieces of federal legislation such as her American Mineral Security Act, the bipartisan infrastructure package, some “gentle” permitting reforms of which we need more, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Defense Production Act of 2022 — but acknowledged that all of these steps are merely a beginning, and that more must be done.

    Chiefly among the things that need to be done, according to Murkowski, are more mapping, more permitting reform, “opening more valves of federal support,” and “maybe learn[ing] on the fly when it comes to processing and refining.” Perhaps equally important, she said, was turning the tide of public opinion, which too often is “agnostic or downright hostile to mining.”

    Murkowski cited the example of natural graphite, for which the United States has long been 100% import dependent as one of the promising opportunities Alaska holds for reducing our overreliance via the Graphite Creek deposit owned by Graphite One, Inc., which USGS has deemed the largest U.S. graphite deposit and among the largest in the world.  With Alaska home to many critical minerals, the Senator called on stakeholders and the policy community to engage in more dialogue and devise ways in which federal policy could support and strengthen projects like Graphite One’s, because the issue of critical mineral resource security is “too key to Alaska’s future, it’s too key to our country’s future.” 

    Here’s hoping that stakeholders are listening.

    The Wilson Center provides publications related to the conference, as well as complete video streaming on its website and on its YouTube channel, and will make proceedings from the tabletop exercise and briefs from the working sessions publicly available once finalized. 

  • Alaska Critical Minerals Conference: Stakeholders Welcome Progress Thus Far, Call for Federal Permitting Reform and More Predictability in the Mining Space

    Just as a new federal law – the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 – may send a much-needed investment signal to the underdeveloped critical mineral supply chains for EVs and other 21st  century technologies, many of which are rife with underinvestment, political risk and poor governance – lawmakers and policy experts gathered for a two-day two-day conference hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, in partnership with the Wilson Center and U.S. Arctic Research Commission earlier this week.

    Entitled “Alaska’s Minerals: A Strategic National Imperative,” the summit addressed ways in which Alaska’s vast critical mineral potential, which ARPN has frequently pointed to, could be harnessed to diversify America’s critical mineral supply chains.

    U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan kicked off the proceedings, arguing that Alaska has many of the metals and minerals deemed critical by the U.S. government, while stressing the need for federal permitting changes for Alaska to be able to supply the materials underpinning the sought-after green energy transition.   Said Sen. Murkowski:

    “We have the resources. We have resources other states clearly don’t have….  What we need is the ability to be able to access those resources in a way that allows us to be competitive.”

    Senator Sullivan looked back to an earlier Critical Minerals summit in Alaska in 2012 – Sullivan was at that time Alaska’s Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources – and cited our ARPN Risk Assessment, a sober reminder that while momentum is building in 2022, it has been a long journey bringing critical minerals into the public consciousness and public policy debate.

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy, keynoting the event on Tuesday, echoed this sentiment his remarks while highlighting specific projects in the state that could play a vital role in “securing our national security and economic growth by providing the critical minerals needed for the energy transition that we see is well underway.”

    While welcoming President Joe Biden’s invocation of the Defense Production Act to spur domestic development of the “battery criticals” – lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese — the governor lamented the Administration’s lack of acknowledgement of Alaska as a potential source of critical minerals for securing U.S. supply chains, along with an earlier Administration decision to suspend a previously granted federal right-of-way for a prominent Alaskan mining project.

    Governor Dunleavy added:

    “This administration must speak with one voice. It wants critical minerals, or it doesn’t. It wants the lower energy prices, or it doesn’t.  It wants to create jobs in the U.S. or it doesn’t.  It wants to protect the environment or it doesn’t. It cares about human rights, or it doesn’t. (…) The disjointed federal permitting process doesn’t just hurt Alaskans (…), it hurts every industry, and every state. (…) 

    If we set ambitious goals for EVs or renewables without permitting the production of critical minerals here, those minerals will still be produced, they just won’t be produced in here in America or Alaska, they’ll be produced by child labor, potentially, they’ll be produced without environmental standards, potentially, they’ll be produced at the expense of the American worker, to the benefit, potentially, of our adversaries.”  

    Sen. Murkowski suggested that the federal government take steps to foster “predictability” in the mining sector to unleash the state’s mineral potential, arguing that “other countries” would “in place longer-term policies that allow them to focus on what it means to be sticking with a policy, and a view, and a vision towards dominance.”

    ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty, speaking on Monday, also offered his thoughts on the current critical minerals policy discourse.

    As a coda to the conference, on the same day the sessions wrapped up, the U.S. Geological Service announced that Alaska will receive more than $6.75 million in funding for geologic mapping, airborne geophysical surveying, and geochemical sampling in support of critical mineral resource studies in the state.

    Here’s hoping this is another signal that more positive change is on the way — because, as Senator Sullivan’s reference to our 2012 ARPN Risk Report made clear, while progress has been made, much more remains to be done, and the rest of the world will not wait for us.

    For a webcast of Day Two of the event, click here.  (We will update this post once Day One video coverage, which will include McGroarty’s remarks, becomes available as well.)

  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty to Discuss Critical Mineral Policy at Alaska Critical Minerals Conference

    Mere months after widespread lockdowns in China over coronavirus outbreaks, factories in Sichuan province are shutting down again – this time over an intense heatwave and drought across China’s south.  Meanwhile, Russia’s war on Ukraine shows no signs of slowing down, and tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan continue to flare. As the [...]
  • Sens. Manchin and Murkowski Call on Administration to Prioritize Initiatives to Maintain and Strengthen U.S. Leadership and Rebuild Productive Capacity in Key Sectors and Value Chains

    Against the backdrop of ever-increasing pressures on critical mineral supply chains, we are seeing a flurry of activity on the part of government stakeholders to shore up supply of the metals and minerals underpinning 21st Century. While it is certainly encouraging that these developments are not only underway but are also increasingly making headlines and garnering [...]
  • Take a Break from Election Scrolling – Watch Highlights from Webinar on Lithium Ion Battery, EV and Energy Storage Supply Chain Issues

    While it seems that for weeks, all eyes have been on the Presidential elections in the U.S., earlier in October, our friends of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence hosted its Washington DC Summit 2020, which brought together U.S. Government representatives and industry stakeholders to discuss materials challenges — specifically in the realm of lithium ion battery technology, [...]
  • Event Alert: Benchmark Webinar on Lithium Ion Battery, EV and Energy Storage Supply Chain Issues

    Against the backdrop of a new presidential executive order declaring a critical minerals “national emergency” for the United States, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence will host its “Washington DC Summit 2020 – Online” on Tuesday, October 20th, at 1p.m. EST. This year’s virtual summit will bring together U.S. Government representatives and industry stakeholders to discuss materials challenges [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Experts to U.S. Senators: It’s “Not Too Late for the U.S.” to Secure Mineral Supply Chains Post-COVID, “But Action is Needed Now”

    In a timely hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, witnesses discussed the urgency of securing U.S. mineral supply chains in a post-COVID context.  Committee Chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has long been an advocate of comprehensive mineral resource policy reform set the stage arguing that “[t]he pandemic has brought [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member: U.S. Must Turn to Building Out Critical Mineral Supply Chains Securing Both Inputs and Outputs

    Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), long one of the leaders on Capitol Hill pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s mineral resource policy, addressed the challenges of our nation’s over-reliance on foreign – and especially China-sourced critical metals and minerals against the backdrop of the current Coronavirus pandemic in a post [...]
  • Tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 10 – U.S. House Committee to Hold Hearing on “Research and Innovation to Address the Critical Materials Challenge”

    On Tuesday, December 10 — close to the two-year anniversary of the White House’s executive order “to develop a federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals” the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on “Research and Innovation to Address the Critical Materials Challenge.” The hearing comes against the backdrop of increased [...]