VIEW FROM NORTH AMERICA
Ed Meir and US Members Chat about Tariffs, while Rare Earths Escape their Clutches
Early last week it was stinking hot here. It was also the start of the General Assembly at the UN. As sometimes happens, I found myself invited to things. This included an invitation from the UK’s “Secretary of State for International Development” and the “Kenyan Cabinet Secretary, for the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection” to celebrate (in the form of drinks) the success of the Global Disability Summit (the other month) at the personal residence of the UK’s (first female) ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce.
Ah, I thought, that’ll be fun, there’ll be AC and I should like to see what her place is like. Alas, that was not to be – in spades. They had erected what can only be described as a “micro marquee” in the garden and there we were sweltering in a temperature of 85°F and 85% humidity. Not being particularly slim, I dissolved. But I did my stuff and enjoyed myself. There were some great people there from organizations like the International Disability Alliance and UK’s DFID. This last does some trailblazing work in the field of disability and international development, putting many countries to shame.
Another invitation I accepted last week was to the MMTA’s Global Metals Outlook with Ed Meir, to be hosted, once again, by our friends at HSBC. This I went to on Thursday. (They have lovely offices just beside the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.) It was great to see Maria Cox again there, who had come over especially for the evening. A small, select company, we were provided with an excellent presentation by Ed. This was followed by a brief but lively discussion and, subsequently, food and drink.
As can be imagined, the single most important topic we discussed was tariffs: What they had achieved, what they might actually hope to achieve, and just what on earth is going on. Perhaps not surprisingly, easy answers to these three musings “came there none”. (I think it would be more honest, though, just to say “answers”, not “easy answers”.)
We all noted that, as some had expected, rare earths had been left out of this latest round of tariffs. Our musings then turned, amongst other metals, to titanium, tungsten, and moly. What was going to happen there, especially when it came to the aerospace industry? Although we came to no conclusions, I think we were all agreed that, if it wished to turn the screw a wee bit more itself, China is in a position to do so, not only in relation to these three metals, but also to a number of others. On that unhappy note we broke for beers, goodies, and wine.
I sincerely hope that, following my last missive, no MMTA members held their breaths waiting for the “ multi-agency strategy” around critical minerals we were informed would be forthcoming in August. If they did, they would, by now, be very dead. I’m so sorry! Perhaps so is the strategy: I’ve not heard a squeak from anybody, nor seen anything about it anywhere. (When I Google it, find only my last letter to the MMTA in early September!)
There was an article on this subject in the National Review earlier this month entitled: “Real Pushback on Chinese Mineral Imports = More Mining in America”:1 An admirable premise. However, the penultimate paragraph/sentence was this: “The math is simple: More American mining = less Chinese mineral imports.” Would that the “math” were so simple! When considering the math, the piece’s authors, Ned Mamula and Ann Bridges, might perhaps like to give just a little thought to both the cost (and technical know-how) needed to turn what is dug up out of the ground into what is, for example, a working part in your smart phone. The math, I am afraid, is never simple.
In the middle of this month, I noticed with interest that the UK’s Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) had awarded its 2018 Medal of Excellence to the European FAME project, partnered by the BRGM. This is, I believe, the first time it has been awarded to a European project. If any member could provide me with more information on both this award and, indeed, both the FAME project and IOM3, I should be most grateful. It all looks very interesting. From what I could see in a quick gander, areas of interest include tin, indium, tungsten and lithium.
In the meantime, I trust all members have had a fine and restful summer despite the disruptions in world trade originating from my side of the Atlantic. Sadly, I’m sure there’ll be more to come before everything finally quietens down.
With that said, I should like send my best wishes to MMTA members everywhere.
Yours, as always
September 30th, 2018
©2018 Tom Butcher
Tom Butcher is a Director at Van Eck Associates Corporation (“VanEck”). The views and opinions expressed herein are the personal views of Tom Butcher are not presented by or associated with VanEck or its affiliated entities.
1 National Review: Real Pushback on Chinese Mineral Imports = More Mining in America, September 6, 2018,