Archive | Nickel/Metals/ War – Geopolitical Flashpoints

[Defense-critical rare-earth elements] Bad Trade Policies Are Hurting U.S. National Security – by Mike Fredenburg (National Review – March 23, 2017)

American negligence has allowed China to seize control of the rare-earth elements critical to our national defense. President Trump should reverse this sorry state of affairs.

That our government sat idly by as we became completely dependent on other countries to supply us with defense-critical rare-earth elements (REEs) is scandalous. That the country we are now dependent on for REEs is China, a hostile power, is unforgivable. China is not our friend; any objective analysis of its actions and comments over the last 30 years would conclude that Beijing views the U.S. as its primary enemy.

That is why Republican congressman (and former Marine) Duncan Hunter of California has proposed a bill to redress this dangerous situation by allocating 1 percent of the Department of Defense’s administrative-overhead budget — about $50 million per year — to incentivize the resumption of domestic production of defense-critical REEs.

The summary of Hunter’s METALS (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security) Act warns that the rights to the largest REE mine in the United States, Mountain Pass in California, are in danger of being purchased by a company with strong ties to Russia. Continue Reading →

U.S.A. CONGRESSMAN NEWS RELEASE: Hunter Introduces METALS Act to Curtail U.S. Dependence on Foreign-Sourced Strategic and Critical Materials Supporting National Defense

March 7, 2017 – Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) introduced the Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security (METALS) Act. The legislation rectifies a dangerous lapse in the supply chain for strategic and critical materials essential for numerous defense and national security applications.

“The U.S. must no longer be wholly dependent on foreign sources of strategic and critical materials,” said Rep. Hunter. “The risk of this dependence on national security is too great and it urgently demands that we re-establish our depleted domestic industrial base.”

Presently, the People’s Republic of China dominates the production of rare earth elements, controlling more than 90 percent of global production. These critical materials are key components of everything from high technology consumer electronics to advanced weapons systems, including the Joint Strike Fighter. Continue Reading →

Trump to Seek $54 Billion Increase in Military Spending – by Michael D. Shear (New York Times – February 27, 2017)

WASHINGTON — President Trump will propose raising military spending by $54 billion — a nearly 10 percent increase — and reducing spending by the same amount across much of the rest of the government, White House officials said on Monday.

In remarks to the nation’s governors during a White House meeting, the president said he would propose a “public safety and national security” budget for the coming fiscal year that prioritizes the military and other public safety requirements.

“This budget follows through on my promise to keep Americans safe,” Mr. Trump said. “It will include an historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States.” He added that the budget would send a “message to the world in these dangerous times of American strength, security and resolve.” Continue Reading →

Barrick’s Munk Heads Top Ten Most Important Mining Men in Canadian History – by Stan Sudol

Melanie and Peter Munk

Melanie and Peter Munk

Four Americans Made the List!

A few months ago, my dear colleague Joe Martin, who is the Director of the Canadian Business & Financial History Initiative at Rotman and President Emeritus of Canada’s History Society, asked me a very simple question: who would be considered the most important individual in Canadian mining?

Considering Canada’s lengthy and exceptional expertise in the mineral sector, it was not an easy answer and I decided to research and create a top ten list of the most important mining men in Canadian history.

The lack of women on this list simply reflects the fact that for much of our history most women were not given the educational or social opportunities to excel in business, especially in a rough and male-dominated sector like mining. Times have changed, women are playing key roles in mining today and will definitely be included on this list in the future.

However, a few qualifiers need to be established. This is basically a list of mine builders not mine finders.  Building a company through takeovers and discoveries is one way but I am also focusing on individuals who have built corporate empires and/or who have developed isolated regions of the country with the necessary infrastructure for mines to flourish and create multi-generational jobs, shareholder wealth and great economic impact. Continue Reading →

Prominent retired Chinese colonel sees world heading for ‘Amerexit’ – by Nathan Vanderklippe – November 3, 2016)

BEIJING – Call him China’s happy hawk. Liu Mingfu is a retired colonel who has become one of his country’s most prominent military conservatives, a man whose book The China Dream lays out a path for China to eclipse the United States and dominate the international order.

The world is heading toward an “Amerexit” – a kind of international divorce with the United States – he believes, and it has already begun.

The very idea stirs so much delight that he does not sit when he talks, instead maintaining a blur of motion for hours in a recent conversation, occasionally breaking into mocking imitation of the two people he sees as the flawed modern leaders of the American downfall, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Continue Reading →

Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines Were Critical During World War Two – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two Poster

Inco World War Two Poster

Nickel Was the Most Strategic Metal

By anyone’s estimation, the highlight of Sudbury’s social calendar in 1939 was the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on June 5th, accompanied by Prime Minister Mackenzie King and a host of local dignitaries. This was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited Canada, let alone Sudbury, a testimony to the growing importance of the region’s vital nickel mines. The nickel operations in the Sudbury Basin were booming due to growing global tensions and increased spending on military budgets. Sudbury and the northeastern Ontario gold mining centres of Timmins and Kirkland Lake were among the few economic bright spots in a country devastated by the Great Depression.

In an April 15, 1938 article, Maclean’s Magazine journalist Leslie McFarlane described the three mining communities as, “Northern Ontario’s glittering triangle….No communities in all of Canada are busier, none more prosperous. The same golden light shines on each.”

During the royal visit, precedence was broken by allowing Queen Elizabeth the first female ever to go underground at the Frood Mine. Traditionally miners thought women would bring bad luck if they were permitted underground. There were probably many who thought the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939 was the result of her subterranean visit. Continue Reading →

The Congo and the Cold War – by The Conversation (Economy – September 1, 2016)

In late 1949 the Soviet Union tested its own atomic bomb, to the profound shock of the US and Britain. Neither of the two had any idea that the Soviet atomic weapons programme was so well advanced. The US had beaten Germany in the first atomic arms race. In addition, for four years, it had enjoyed an absolute monopoly on atomic weapons. Now, a second atomic arms race was under way – and the Cold War heated up dramatically.

The Shinkolobwe mine in Katanga had been reopened in March 1945. It was fully in operation, supplying America with fresh stocks of high-grade uranium ore. As a result, observes Congolese historian Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, the Congo was an important element of Washington’s geopolitical strategy in the context of the Cold War.

Despite strenuous efforts by the US to find alternative sources of rich ore, Shinkolobwe remained its greatest single source in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1947, according to figures from the US Atomic Energy Commission, the US obtained 1,440 tons of uranium concentrates from the Belgian Congo. It obtained none from its own territory and only 137 tons from Canada. Continue Reading →

Congo’s uranium: Rich pickings (The Economist – August 27, 2016)

An intriguing account of why America was so interested in Congo in the 1940s

“A HOTBED of spies”, remarked Bob Laxalt when he arrived in Léopoldville, capital of the Belgian Congo, in 1944. Why, wondered the fresh-faced young code officer for the American Consul-General, was his government so interested in this “dark corner of darkest Africa”? After all: “There’s no war here.”

Laxalt was not alone in his ignorance. America’s interest in the Congo—and, specifically, in the resource-rich south-eastern province of Katanga—was one of the best-kept secrets of the second world war. Beneath its verdant soil lay a prize that the Americans believed held the key to victory. It was the race to control this prize that brought the spooks to Léopoldville. The Germans, they feared, might be after it, too.

The prize, Susan Williams explains in “Spies in the Congo”, was uranium. Congo was by far the richest source of it in the world. As the architects of America’s nuclear programme (the “Manhattan Project”) knew, uranium was the atom bomb’s essential ingredient. But almost everybody else was kept entirely in the dark, including the spies sent to Africa to find out if the heavy metal was being smuggled out of the Congo into Nazi Germany. Continue Reading →

China reveals plans to ship cargo across Canada’s Northwest Passage – by Nathan Vanderklippe (Globe and Mail – April 21, 2016)

BEIJING — The Chinese government has published a lengthy Northwest Passage shipping guidebook that lays the foundation for cargo vessels to sail across the top of Canada.

Spanning 365 pages of charts and detailed information on sea ice and weather, the Chinese-language Arctic Navigation Guide (Northwest Passage) was compiled by ocean and shipping experts as a way to help the country’s mariners plan voyages through a waterway seen as a valuable shortcut between China and North America.

“There will be ships with Chinese flags sailing through this route in the future,” Liu Pengfei, a spokesman for China’s Maritime Safety Administration, which published the book, told reporters Tuesday. “Once this route is commonly used, it will directly change global maritime transportation and have a profound influence on international trade, the world economy, capital flow and resource exploitation.” Continue Reading →

Space Mining Is Going to Accelerate the Military Space Race – by John Knefel ( – February 11, 2016)

The U.S. military has tried for decades to put weapons in space. Russia and China are watching, and revving up.

Luxembourg made international news last week when the small European country announced its intentions to be a world leader in commercial asteroid mining. You know if Luxembourg is making big moves, the coming decades in outer space are going to be wild.

The expected boom in commercial space travel and resource extraction are going to be equal parts gold rush and space race, with all the potential for riches and conflict those entail.

For decades, the United States and Russia (including when it was part of the USSR) have tried to weaponize outer space. The Reagan-era “Star Wars” program to weaponize space became a symbol of a Pentagon completely untethered from reality or any meaningful budgetary constraints. But the first “space war” was Operation Desert Storm, when U.S. forces used GPS to rout Iraq’s army following the invasion of Kuwait. Continue Reading →

U.S. Squandered $488 Million on Afghan Mining Projects – by Keith Johnson (Foreign Policy – January 14, 2016)

The United States spent five years trying to help Afghanistan tap what U.S. officials believe is a $1 trillion mother lode of minerals. In the end, U.S. taxpayers threw away half a billion dollars with almost nothing to show for it.

According to a new report by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), efforts to help Afghanistan develop some sort of economy floundered thanks to a combination of corruption, incompetence, lack of infrastructure, and a deteriorating security environment.

Afghanistan’s ability to tap what could be vast wealth from deposits of iron, copper, and lithium is so hamstrung by lack of government oversight and a dearth of basic infrastructure that the country’s war-torn security situation is actually the least of its problems. Continue Reading →

North Korea Says It Has Detonated Its First Hydrogen Bomb – by David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun (New York Times – January 5, 2016)

WASHINGTON — North Korea declared on Tuesday that it had detonated its first hydrogen bomb. The assertion, if true, would dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of the world’s most isolated and dangerous states.

In an announcement, North Korea said that the test had been a “complete success.” But it was difficult to tell whether the statement was true. North Korea has made repeated claims about its nuclear capabilities that outside analysts have greeted with skepticism.

“This is the self-defensive measure we have to take to defend our right to live in the face of the nuclear threats and blackmail by the United States and to guarantee the security of the Korean Peninsula,” a female North Korean announcer said, reading the statement on Central Television, the state-run network. Continue Reading →

Has China peaked? – by Michael Auslin (National Post – November 20, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The annual Halifax International Security Forum will convene on Nov. 20, bringing together some of the finest military and strategic thinkers in the Western world for a three-day conference. In the run-up to the event, the National Post is presenting four essays that describe the challenges, and opportunities, facing the West today.

At a dinner at the Halifax International Security Forum in 2013, a table of experts and interested participants, including former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, had a spirited discussion on an unconventional theme: “Peaking China.”

Even two years ago, the idea that China would not be forever rising was a fringe concept. Continue Reading →

U.S. challenges China’s sovereignty claim to artificial islands – by Nathan Vanderklippe (Globe and Mail – October 28, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

BEIJING — The U.S. is pledging to sail more warships past the shores of artificial islands in the South China Sea as the world’s most powerful military seeks to strip away the expansionist claims of China and other nations in waters crucial to the global movement of goods.

Early Tuesday morning, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen deliberately came within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, one of the places in the Spratly Islands that China has transformed into a sizable air and sea outpost from a reef that once vanished at high tide.

In so doing, the ship breached the exclusion zone that would apply to territorial waters and underscored the U.S. position that China cannot claim that exclusion around its manufactured lands. The move escalates the conflict over who controls a sea the size of India that constitutes the maritime heart of East Asia. It provoked an angry response from China, which dispatched a missile destroyer and a patrol boat to shadow and attempt to warn off the Lassen.

In Beijing, China summoned U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus over the patrol, which vice-foreign minister Zhang Yesui called “extremely irresponsible,” while other officials warned of a Chinese retaliation. Continue Reading →

The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War? – by Graham Allison (The Atlantic – September 24, 2015)

In 12 of 16 past cases in which a rising power has confronted a ruling power, the result has been bloodshed.

When Barack Obama meets this week with Xi Jinping during the Chinese president’s first state visit to America, one item probably won’t be on their agenda: the possibility that the United States and China could find themselves at war in the next decade. In policy circles, this appears as unlikely as it would be unwise.

And yet 100 years on, World War I offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for folly. When we say that war is “inconceivable,” is this a statement about what is possible in the world—or only about what our limited minds can conceive? In 1914, few could imagine slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: world war.

When war ended four years later, Europe lay in ruins: the kaiser gone, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the Russian tsar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of its youth and treasure. A millennium in which Europe had been the political center of the world came to a crashing halt.

The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. Continue Reading →