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  • 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.)

  • U.S. Army Brigadier General (ret.): Congress Has Opportunity to Make “Critically Important Leap Forward to Build the Secure, Responsible Industrial Base our Economy and National Security Needs”

    In a new piece for RealClearEnergy, John Adams, U.S. Army brigadier general (ret.), argues that the newly proposed Inflation Reduction Act, negotiated by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) is not only the most ambitious climate bill in U.S. history, but also represents an opportunity to bolster our nation’s economic and national security. 

    General Adams points to the fact that the energy components of the package, in his words, “do far more than just tackle emissions.” In his view, the provisions aim to “use the energy transition to rebuild the nation’s industrial base and ensure that the energy and transportation jobs of tomorrow are American jobs.”

    The package would require that by 2024, 40% of the minerals used in EV batteries would have to be extracted, processed or recycled in the U.S. or by a free trade partner — a requirement that increases to 80% by 2027.

    General Adams believes that the sourcing requirements for the battery “criticals” contained in the package — lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite — are key to addressing “emerging energy security vulnerabilities before they are intractable crises.”

    He credits Sen. Joe Manchin, who believes that “trading the ugly geopolitics of petro-dictators only to sleepwalk into complete dependence on a battery supply chain dominated by China is a mistake the country cannot make,” for zeroing in on the threat Chinese dominance of critical mineral supply chains poses to the nation’s energy security.

    Followers of ARPN well know that our clean energy future hinges on massive critical mineral inputs, and demand projections for the battery criticals, but also key clean energy metals like copper, are on an ever-high trajectory.  Meanwhile, our import reliance for critical minerals is significantly up from decades ago and has shown no signs of decreasing in the past few years, with China having cornered not just the extraction, but also the processing segment of the supply chain.

    As General Adams closes:

    China has worked diligently to turn mineral supply chains into an economic leg up but also an enormous source of geopolitical leverage — not unlike how Russia has leveraged its energy trade with Europe. What Senator Manchin recognizes is that our energy future is on a collision course with our mineral insecurity and China’s mineral dominance. 

    The mineral sourcing requirements in the reconciliation bill – coupled with other incentives to encourage domestic mining, mineral processing and recycling– are precisely the bold measures needed to address this alarming vulnerability. This legislation is a critically important leap forward to build the secure, responsible industrial base our economy and national security needs.”

  • Mapping of Domestic Critical Minerals Prioritized in Context of All-of-the-Above Approach to Supply Chain Security

    As the U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), another piece of legislation enacted earlier is beginning to bear fruit in the context of strengthening our nation’s critical mineral supply chains. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it had set aside [...]
  • U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken Invokes Critical Mineral Supply Chain Security in Policy Speech

    In yet another indication that increasing demand and supply chain challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and war in Ukraine have raised the geopolitical stakes, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken explicitly referenced critical minerals and the United over-reliance on China both in terms of mining and processing in a speech outlining U.S. policy [...]
  • U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin Calls for Strengthening U.S.-Canadian Energy and Critical Minerals Partnership

    Along with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has long one of the lead champions of a more comprehensive approach to mineral resource security. On the heels of lamenting the delayed implementation of a set of critical mineral provisions included in the Energy Act of 2020 and the bipartisan infrastructure package [...]
  • As Allies Take Steps to Unleash Mineral Potential, U.S. Must Not Become Complacent – “Friend-Shoring” Piece of the Puzzle, not Panacea

    As U.S. stakeholders grapple with the question of how to bolster U.S. supply chains for the battery criticals and other critical minerals amidst skyrocketing demand scenarios and growing geopolitical pressures, our allies are taking steps of their own to unleash their mineral potential. Looking north, in order to “secure Canada’s place in important supply chains with [...]
  • Desperate Times, Desperate Measures? Persisting Semiconductor Supply Chain Challenge Warrants Comprehensive “All-of-the-Above” Approach – or, You Can Always Rip Apart New Washing Machines for Their Micro-Chips…!

    They say desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you needed any more indications that the state of supply chain security has reached crisis level, consider headlines like this one:  “Tech firms rip apart NEW washing machines so they can harvest their computer parts in a bid to beat the global microchip shortage”. The news [...]
  • Invocation of Defense Production Act a Sign “America is Finally Taking the Battery Metal Shortage Seriously” – But Must be Embedded in True All-of-the-Above Strategy

    Last week, against the backdrop of mounting pressures on U.S. critical mineral supply chains, U.S. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to encourage domestic production of the metals and minerals deemed critical for electric vehicle and large capacity batteries. The move is a sign that “America is finally taking the battery metal shortage seriously,” as the [...]
  • Critical Minerals in Focus – U.S. Senate Full Committee Hearing on Domestic Critical Mineral Supply Chains

    Bearing testimony to a growing awareness of our nation’s critical mineral resource challenge, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a full committee hearing on domestic critical mineral supply chains earlier this week. The witness panel at the hearing, which E&E Daily described as “a largely pro-mining hearing that could serve as a blueprint for a potential deal [...]
  • The Reorganization of the Post-Cold War Geopolitical Landscape and its Impact on Critical Mineral Supply – A Look at Copper

    Pandemic induced supply chain shocks, increasing resource nationalism in various parts of the world, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exactly one month ago have brought the stakes for securing critical mineral resource supply chains to a whole new level. The emerging geopolitical landscape has sent countries scrambling to devise strategies to not only ensure steady [...]