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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Report from The Yukon: Critical Minerals Challenge Brings “Geopolitical Backwater” Into Focus

    As we outlined in our last post, the Biden Administration’s strategy to secure critical mineral supply chains, as outlined in its just-released 100 Day Supply Chain Report, embraces an “all of the above approach.” While strengthening sustainable mining and processing domestically, the Administration will also rely on partnerships with our closest allies — and of those, most notably, Canada.

    In that context, a region that, in spite of its storied mining history — does the Klondike gold rush ring a bell? — and its vast mineral potential has rarely made headlines in the U.S. may come into focus going forward: The Yukon.

    Writes Yukon economist Keith Halliday in an opinion piece for Yukon News:

    “Yukoners have long been fortunate to live in a geopolitical backwater. The Yukon generally doesn’t make it into the President’s Daily Brief. If you run into a foreign correspondent with a sat-phone in Whitehorse, it’s because they’re going canoeing with friends on the Snake. (…)

    But could we actually benefit from today’s rising tensions, as China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy prompts democratic countries to look for strategically secure sources of raw materials? After the recent G7 summit, where leaders discussed a more unified China strategy, both the Biden Administration and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen talked about the role Canadian resources could play.

    (…)

    There is the possibility that the Yukon could benefit from the desire among Canada’s allies to find secure sources of strategic minerals.”

    Indeed, the region’s mineral potential is vast, to the point that it made the top 10 of the Fraser Institute’s list of most attractive mining jurisdictions as recent as 2018.

    Halliday argues that the fact that Europe and the United States are looking to diversify their mineral resource supply chains away from China amidst growing geopolitical tensions “is good news for Yukon mining projects whose ores are on US and European lists.”

    “However,” as he notes, “that list does not include some of the most commonly mined minerals in the Yukon, such as copper or gold.”

    While it is true that Copper did not make the U.S. Government’s official list of critical minerals in 2018, the Biden Administration’s 100 Day Report acknowledges Copper as an integral component of Lithium-ion battery technology, both in the context of being what we have called a “gateway metal” to other critical materials, and for its “use across many end-use applications aside from lithium-ion cells, including building construction, electrical and electronic products, transportation equipment, consumer and general products, and industrial machinery and equipment.”

    With that, the Yukon’s appeal may be on the rise.

    As perhaps it should be, given geopolitical developments this week that put five Chinese companies operating in Xinjiang Province on the U.S. Government’s sanctions list for using forced labor at the province’s quartz mines to produce polysilicon for the solar power sector. With Yukon’s many quartz deposits, the territory may draw attention from companies in the solar sector seeking a new source of polysilicon, produced under Canada’s exacting environmental, health and safety standards.

    Whatever metals or minerals may come to define a new tech metals Yukon “gold” rush, Halliday cautions, though: “We should also remember that there are still many other countries who will be happy to host mining projects if Yukon properties get tied up in extensive permitting and approval processes.”

    And permitting is an area that has seen the territory drop in the Fraser Institute rankings in recent years, with the latest report citing a mining company executive as stating “Permitting approval processes in the Yukon are a major concern for investors.”

    Concludes Halliday:

    “If we don’t ensure our mining approval processes allow high-quality, environmentally-sound projects to be permitted in a timely way, we will end up missing out on both the economic benefits of strategic mining as well as the opportunity to help our allies secure their mineral supplies.”

    Suffice it to say, ARPN will add the Yukon to our watch list for critical mineral resource developments (pun intended). You should, too.

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  • DoD-led “100-Day” Supply Chain Assessment Concludes We Need “All of The Above” Approach to Critical Mineral Resource Security

    Last week, the Biden Administration released the findings of its 100-day supply chain review initiated by Executive Order 14017 – “America’s Supply Chains.”

    From a Critical Minerals perspective, there is a lot to unpack in the 250-page report, and we’ll be digging into the various chapters and issues over the next few days and weeks.

    First up: a closer look at the Review of Critical Minerals and Materials,” an “interagency assessment for which the Department of Defense served as the lead” — not least because we were pleased to find ARPN’s call for an “all of the above approach” to mineral resource security echoed in the chapter. Rather than attempting a comprehensive full-chapter summary, we’ll highlight some key findings of interest to followers of ARPN:

    The Department of Defense defines strategic and critical minerals as “those that support military and essential civilian industry; and are not found or produced in the United States in quantities to meet our needs.”

    The agency notes that in the three decades since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the subsequent reorientation of global supply chains has fundamentally changed the landscape for strategic and critical minerals. With the rise of China, and availability of supplies that were previously locked behind the Iron Curtain, “[t]rade liberalization and global, just-in-time supply chains became the order of the day,” and the prioritization of economic efficiency over “diversity and sustainability of supply” contributed to a slow “erosion of manufacturing capabilities.”

    While supply chains became more complex, DoD laments that with the the impetus for national mobilization programs falling by the wayside “core capabilities at non-defense agencies to study, characterize and mitigate risk in the strategic and critical materials sector atrophied.”

    DoD finds that today’s concentration of global supply chains for strategic and critical materials in China — a reality the American public has increasingly become aware of in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, “creates risk of disruption and of politicized trade practices, including the use of forced labor.”

    In its assessment of mitigation strategies, DoD looks at various sources of supply and concludes that

    “[t]hough increasing recycling rates for strategic and critical materials is advantageous, recycling alone is typically inadequate to supply the volumes of material required for domestic consumption. Even if 100 percent recycling rates were achieved for a particular supply chain, increasing demand necessitates primary production.”

    The agency notes that “complex extraction, chemical, and refining operations, establishing strategic and critical material production is an extremely lengthy process. Independent of permitting activities, a reasonable industry benchmark for the development of a mineral-based strategic and critical materials project is not less than ten years.”

    In its risk assessment, aside from looking at “concentration of supply,” “skills and human capital development gaps” and “conflict minerals,” as well as trade and market dynamics, DoD also highlights the importance of “byproduct and coproduct dependency,” an issue complex of which followers of ARPN are well-aware.

    To alleviate risk, DoD suggests the following:

    “Reliable, secure, and resilient supplies of key strategic and critical materials are essential to the U.S. economy and national defense. The United States needs an ‘all of the above’ comprehensive strategy to increase the resilience of strategic and critical material supply chains that both expands sustainable production and processing capacity and works with allies and partners to ensure secure global supply.”

    Specifically, the agency recommends a strategy focused on the following:

    • Developing and Fostering New Sustainability Standards for Strategic and Critical Material- Intensive Industries
    • Expanding Sustainable Domestic Production and Processing Capacity, Including Recovery from Secondary and Unconventional Sources and Recycling
    • Deploying the DPA — specifically Title III — and Other Programs
    • Convene Industry Stakeholders to Expand Production
    • Promote Interagency Research & Development to Support Sustainable Production and a Technically-Skilled Workforce
    • Strengthen U.S. Stockpiles
    • Work with Allies and Partners and Strengthen Global Supply Chain Transparency

    DoD’s conclusion:

    “Today, at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, a new industrial era of low-carbon and increasingly energy efficient products is converging with autonomous and Internet-of-Things devices, which may lead to massive gains in productivity and economic growth. If the United States wants to capture the full benefits of this new era, we must also look to the sustainability of our strategic and critical materials supply chains. The Department of Defense can play an important role, but the Department cannot carry-out this task alone. This is a task for the Nation.

    The U.S. Government, collectively, has examined the risk in strategic and critical materials supply chains for decades. Now is the time for decisive, comprehensive action by the Biden-Harris Administration, by the Congress, and by stakeholders from industry and non-governmental organizations to support sustainable production and conservation of strategic and critical materials.”

    In the wake of several media reports that the Biden Administration would pursue a more selective strategy focused primarily on domestic processing rather than also supporting increased domestic production, it is encouraging to see DoD — and the Biden Administration as a whole — endorse a broad-based “all of the above” approach to mineral resource security. With the strategy now in place, ARPN will look for signs that the U.S. Government with transform those recommendations into reality, via policy, programs and projects that address the deep shortfalls in Critical Mineral supply.

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  • ARPN Expert Panel Member: Create Framework to “Insulate Domestic Producers from Market Manipulation While Fostering Innovation” in Effort to Decouple From China

    In a recent piece for RealClearDefense Jeffery A. Green, president and founder of J.A. Green & Company, and member of the ARPN panel of experts, outlines a set of four main lines of efforts policy makers should focus on as they develop policy recommendations based on a recent executive order and House task force set [...]
  • Commentary: Fighting Global Climate Change Through Electrification is a Herculean Task

    In a new piece for Forbes, Jude Clemente, principal at JTC Energy Research Associates, LLC, outlines the size and scope of the ambitious climate goal of electrification to fight climate change, and discusses the underlying challenges associated with the shift. Clemente argues that the likely surge in electricity demand as the world seeks to decarbonize [...]
  • Podcast: Battery Tech Supply Chain Expert Simon Moores Discusses Lithium Challenge

    American Jobs Plan, Green New Deal … irrespective of whether these plans will get implemented fully or in part, the renewable energy transition is already here, and it’s here to stay. The renewable energy sector has been transforming at neck-breaking speed, and with that, demand for the metals and minerals underpinning the green energy shift [...]
  • With Asteroid Mining Likely Unattainable for the Time Being, U.S. Must Focus on Reducing Supply Chain Vulnerabilities – Here on Earth

    According to NASA, the Hubble Telescope earlier this month collected imagery of an asteroid “so rich in metals that its worth puts our global economy to shame.” Already discovered in 1852, the celestial body is located in the Solar System’s main asteroid belt, roughly 370 million km from Earth. The object, which has been called [...]
  • U.S. Senator and AK Governor for The Hill: With China Having Taken Control of Critical Mineral Supply Chains, We Need to Act Now

    Beijing’s threat to withhold potentially life-saving medical supplies and medications in the middle of a global pandemic, during which China has “taken control of [respective] supply chains around the world as part of its quest for global domination,” were a wake up call, write U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) in [...]
  • Critical Minerals and the Defense Industrial Base: Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Subcommittee

    Hours after President Donald Trump issued a new executive order declaring a national emergency on critical minerals, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support received testimony from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord on the integrity of America’s critical minerals supply chains. Kicking off the hearing, [...]
  • Scandium Has Yet to Go “Ballistic” — Will Recent Developments Change the Material’s Odds to Shine?

    “This obscure metal is going to go ballistic in a few years,” John Kaiser of Kaiser Research told the Investing News Network a few years ago. The metal he was referring to is Scandium — a material that is “as strong as titanium, as light as aluminum, and as hard as ceramic.” It’s a material [...]
  • Europe Comes to Terms with Mineral Supply Challenges, Unveils Action Plan

    As the U.S. explores its options when it comes to diversifying our critical minerals supply chains away from China in the wake of COVID-19, Europe is coming to grips with its own mineral supply challenges. According to European metals association Eurometaux, the region “has reached a critical fork in the road,” as it grapples with [...]

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