While 2018 brought the inter-relationship between trade and resource policy to the forefront, this trend is continuing in 2019.
Last week, the White House announced sanctions on Iranian metals, which represent the Tehran regime’s biggest source of export revenue aside from petroleum. The sanctions on Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum and copper sectors represent the U.S. administration’s latest effort to pressure Tehran over its “funding and support for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist groups and networks, campaigns of regional aggression, and military expansion” in the Middle East.
Iran may – thankfully – not rank as a top supplier for U.S. domestic consumers of the targeted metals. However, these latest developments should serve as another reminder that securing domestic supplies of mineral resources should be a top priority.
ARPN’s Dan McGroarty invoked Iran in his first testimony before Congress on behalf of ARPN in 2011:
“Now, to be sure, we live in a globalized economy, and indeed — if the U.S. were to simply stop mining copper today – there are known copper prospects in a number of countries. We might turn to Chile, Peru and the Philippines for increased copper supply. Then again, world demand might be met via development of known copper reserves in Russia, Angola, Afghanistan, DRC Congo, or China – including decisions taken in Beijing to exploit copper reserves in the Tibet Autonomous Region. And there is copper in Pakistan and Iran. With the exception of Pakistan — rated “Partly Free” — all of the latter group are rated “Not Free” in the current Freedom House index. So while the world copper market does offer choices, we may well find many of those choices unpalatable from a policy perspective.”
Removing obstacles to a greater degree of resource independence should be the order of the day, but while we’ve seen some incremental progress, efforts to make substantial changes to our nation’s mineral resource policy framework have in the past been largely derailed or put off.
The current global race for the metals and minerals underpinning the EV battery revolution and green energy transition have reignited the debate, and new and revived efforts aimed at promoting domestic mineral resource development sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, and Rep. Mark Amodei.
Here’s hoping that stakeholders see the current trade tensions and their implications as yet another reason to finally formulate a comprehensive mineral resource strategy.
In McGroarty’s words:
“We cannot maintain our modern economy without a steady supply of metals and minerals. Those we do not possess here at home, we must source from other countries. But those we possess but choose not to produce perpetuate a needless foreign dependence – leverage that other nations may well use to America’s disadvantage.”