So, summer appears finally to have come here in New York.
What better prelude could we have had than the excellent International Minor Metals Conference in Toronto at the end of April? For those who could not make it, I’m very sorry. For those who were there, wasn’t it fun: both very informative and thoroughly enjoyable?
There was much icing, too, on the conference “cake”, including the wonderful 5N Plus-sponsored evening of jollity, games and socialising at the Hockey Hall of Fame (Temple de la renommée du hockey) and Noah Lehrman as the modern-day balladeer for those who were able to listen to him and sip cocktails on the Sunday evening prior to everything. For me, too, an added treat was the group of superb Mies van de Rohe office buildings behind the hotel that constitutes the Toronto-Dominion Centre – truly Mies at his very best.
Coming back down to earth with somewhat of a thump, here in the U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is, once again, trying to overhaul federal policy on mineral resources. In this instance, as chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, she has recently introduced proposed updating legislation in the form of “The American Mineral Security Act of 2015.”
While focusing on materials critical to the likes of the energy, healthcare and technology industries, the bill singles out, in particular, not only the rare earth elements, but also other such metals as cobalt, lithium, scandium, thorium and yttrium. Will it go anywhere? Who knows? None of the other attempts over the past several years to revamp federal regulations covering mining appears to have had any degree of success.
As usual, while it was “published” in January this year, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic and Critical Materials 2015 Report on Stockpile Requirements actually only recently became available. And, as seems to be the norm now, received little, if any, mainstream press attention. Whilst the document appears to get thicker and thicker every year, as always it’s worth wading through, not least for the appendices, which are some of the most interesting parts of the report.
Unsurprisingly, the report notes that, for the U.S., “globalization creates a dependency on foreign sources of minerals, materials, and, finished goods.” More importantly, though, it notes that this “dependency is growing.” Many such materials are vital for the defense, energy and technology sectors. For example, “the United States’ import reliance on tantalum is 100 percent, gallium 99 percent, titanium 79 percent, and cobalt 76 percent according to the USGS 2014 Mineral Commodity Summaries.”
Apart from a particularly effective explosive, Defense Logistics Agency Strategic Materials has received authorization to acquire five materials “in order to mitigate their supply chain risk”: ferro-niobium, dysprosium metal, yttrium oxide (including high purity yttrium oxide), cadmium-zinc-tellurium substrate materials and lithium-ion precursors.
Out of some 12 materials in the National Defense Stockpile exhibiting a net shortfall, excluding silicon carbide multifilament fiber, eight were metals. These were:
|Aluminum oxide (fused Crude)||Antimony||Beryllium metal||Europium|
|Germanium||Lanthanum||Magnesium||Manganese metal (electrolytic)|
In the meantime, however, I remain, from a very warm New York, with best wishes for an excellent summer to MMTA Members everywhere.I shall look further at the report in my next letter at the end of the summer.
Tom Butcher, May 27th, 2015 Hard Assets Investor ©2015 Tom Butcher