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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 2019 New Year’s Resolutions for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    Out with the old, in with the new, they say. It‘s new year‘s resolutions time. 

    With the end of 2017 having set the stage for potentially meaningful reform in mineral resource policy, we outlined a set of suggested resolutions for stakeholders for 2018 in January of last year.  And while several important steps  were taken in 2018, as we outlined in our end-of-year recap, most of the resolutions we spelled out remain valid 365 days later, though not without some tweaks or additions.

    Without further ado, here‘s our updated list of suggested new year‘s resolutions for resource policy stakeholders:

    Have a National Policy Conversation 

    The release of the DoI‘s Critical Minerals List and DoD‘s Defense Industrial Base Review in 2018 have helped publicly underscore the need for comprehensive reform. We also saw an uptick in resource resource policy related news making headlines in national publications. It’s a good starting point, because “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 above referenced reports, along with the USGS’s “Critical Minerals of the United States” report released in late 2017 represent must-read materials for all stakeholders involved to develop an understanding of U.S. mineral resource needs and associated supply challenges and should form the basis for any meaningful policy discussions in 2019. As we said before: “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.

    Zero in on the Gateway/Co-Product Interrelationship

    We were happy to see that in 2018, perhaps in part thanks to our informational campaign to highlight the importance of “Co-Product Metals and Minerals,” which included the release of a new report,  awareness of the important inter-relationship of “Gateway Metals” and their “Co-Products,” is growing, and is becoming a part of the broader mineral resource policy conversation. (See for example Ned Mamula’s and Ann Bridges’s just-released book “Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence.) 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.  

    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.” Some legislative progress was made in 2018 (see our recap), however Congress failed once more to pass key critical minerals provisions which were initially included in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, including the Amodei amendment ARPN followers will be familiar with. Congress should make an effort to finally pass these common sense provisions in 2019.

    Factor Resource Policy Into Trade Policy

    More than previous years, 2018 brought the inter-relationship between trade and resource policy to the forefront.  The U.S. Administration won agreement to replace NAFTA with the USMCA — the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement in November of 2018. The talks had opened a window to drop the so-called Section 232 tariffs — named for a seldom-used section of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act — on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico, which stand in the way of a fully integrated North American defense supply chain and, particularly with regards to Canada, “ignore nearly 80 years of deep defense cooperation with our northern neighbor.” Unfortunately, the provision remained intact in the November agreement, but, as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty recently outlined in a piece for The Hill: “The opportunity is here, to use the momentum generated by the new USMCA agreement as a springboard to take the strategic North American alliance to a new level.” So for 2019, stakeholders should work towards removing Section 232 tariffs, and should ensure that resource policy challenges — especially when national security and defense industrial base issues are involved — are factored into trade policy decisions.

    In the grand scheme of things, once more, our 2019 resolutions come down to:  Discuss, Read – and Act.  Here‘s hoping that we can look back at 2019 as the year a new and comprehensive critical minerals strategy helped make the U.S. stronger and safer.

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  • The “Indispensable Twins” of Critical Minerals – Niobium and Tantalum

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on what USGS has dubbed the “indispensable twins” – Niobium and Tantalum. Both share “nearly indistinguishable physical and chemical properties” and are “critical to the defense, energy and high-tech sectors.”  Meanwhile, neither Niobium nor Tantalum are mined in the United States, so their inclusion on the recently-released Department of the Interior list of 35 minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security and the economy should come as no surprise.

    Standouts among Niobium’s properties are its “toughness, resistance to corrosion and high melting point [which] makes it an important alloy to steel that will be used in situations where durability is vital.” Its extreme heat resistance when alloyed with steel makes it a key ingredient for superalloys in jet engines, rockets, gas turbines, and turbochargers.

    Tantalum shares many of Niobium’s characteristics, but, as Lasley writes, it’s “its exceptional capacity to store and release energy” that sets this twin apart, and has resulted in the fact that “50 percent of the tantalum consumed in the United States was used in capacitors and high-power resistors for the electronics sector.”

    Lasley lists several more of the twins’ properties, but for our purposes, suffice it to say they’re indeed quite “indispensable.”

    In spite of the fact that the United States is home to both Niobium and Tantalum deposits, neither of them has been produced domestically since the 1950s.  As a result, the U.S. 100% is import dependent for both, with Brazil (pegged at 72 percent for Niobium, 40 percent for Tantalum minerals) and China (pegged at 23 percent for Tantalum metals) listed as lead suppliers by USGS — leaving domestic industries vulnerable to supply disruptions.

    Thankfully, there is domestic resource potential that – if properly harnessed, could alleviate these vulnerabilities. Lasley points to several deposits in Alaska that show great potential for domestic development of both Niobium and Tantalum, as well as a number of other metals and minerals deemed critical from an economic and national security perspective.

    Whether or not these specific deposits are economically viable remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that we need a framework conducive to unleashing this kind of domestic resource potential.

    As Mark J. Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus recently wrote for the Washington Examiner:

    “More than ever before, our political and business leaders need to make it clear that foreign dependence is neither the right nor the necessary way, and exposes the U.S. economy to great and unnecessary risks. An ideal minerals policy would limit regulatory intrusion, promote economic growth, and enable U.S. companies to compete in international markets. Environmentalists will likely resist any regulatory rollbacks. But so profound is the case for strengthening U.S. mining of minerals and metals that our highest priority should be the security and economic dividends from a pro-competitiveness agenda.”

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  • Beyond Golf Clubs and Aircraft – “Critical Minerals Alaska” Zeroes in on Titanium 

    In the latest installment of his “Critical Minerals Alaska” series for North of Sixty Mining News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on Titanium – an “abundant element that has become an important industrial commodity only within the past 150 years,” according to USGS. As Lasley writes, “Titanium conjures images of the durable and lightweight metal used to build aircraft, replacement hips, [...]
  • Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

    Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – “new kids on the block” arrive in groups. Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, [...]
  • Vanadium’s Time to Shine?

    Steve LeVine, Future Editor at Axios and Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council, has called it “one of the most confounding areas of research” and a “technology that, while invented more than two centuries ago, is still frustrating scientists.”   It is also one of the areas where one of the key growth industries – [...]
  • “Critical Minerals Alaska” – North of 60 Mining News Publishes Series on Alaska’s Resource Potential

    Against the backdrop of an increased focus on critical minerals at the federal level, North of 60 Mining News — an Alaska-based trade publication covering mineral resource issues for Alaska, northern British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut — has started a new series of articles ARPN followers may wish to bookmark. As Lasley pointed [...]
  • Mamula & Moore on Mineral Resource Policy: Time for a Change in Strategy and Philosophy

    “Why is the United States reliant on China and Russia for strategic minerals when we have more of these valuable resources than both these nations combined?” Stephen Moore, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works, and ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, a geoscientist and adjunct scholar at the [...]
  • New USGS Mineral Resource Commodity Summaries Report – An Important Reminder to Keep Momentum Going for Policy Overhaul

    Without much fanfare, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released its annual Mineral Commodity Summaries report at the end of January. Followers of ARPN will know that we usually await the release of said study with somewhat bated breath. However, this year was slightly different, as the context in which to embed this year’s report [...]
  • Event Alert: Resources for Future Generations (#RFG2018) Conference

    We have barely taken down the Christmas decorations, but stores have their Valentine’s Day merchandise out, and we’re already halfway through January.  It may feel that way, but it’s really not to early to highlight an event coming up in June – Summer will be here before we know it. So mark your calendars, ladies [...]
  • AGI to Host Webinar on Critical Minerals

    Mark your calendars – the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) will host a timely webinar on critical mineral issues later this month. The webinar entitled “Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials” will be held on Friday, January 26, 2018, at 11:00am EST, and will “focus on U.S. and European Union (EU) efforts to gather information [...]
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