One of my recent posts mildly chastised an author for not strictly defining the difference between “strategic” and “critical” minerals. But as I looked further into language and definitions in minerals reports, I couldn’t really blame anybody for choosing the skirt the issue. There are basically as many definitions of these terms as there are agencies or committees writing about them. As a quick reference to give our readership an advantage, we decided to present the different definitions of critical and strategic minerals.
This is a piece of cassiterite, the most common tin ore in the world today. Though this sample comes from a mine in Alaska, cassiterite is mined all over the world, including conflict-ridden areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Tin is used mainly to manufacture containers and for electrical purposes, and the Defense National Stockpile keeps tabs (pdf) on American supply.
Photo: Courtesy of Will Rogers and Sharon Burke.
Given all our recent work and the recent press on critical minerals (or “strategic” minerals; more on the distinction later), I gave a look back this week to Peter Harben’s 1992 article “Strategic Minerals” from Earth magazine (print only, but those with access to databases like Ebsco should be able to access it).
Wars over timber, shrinking water supplies, and constant forward deployment of our military to protect oil and natural gas reserves, this was the vision that Michael Klare, the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College and a proponent of ideas like peak oil, espoused in his May 2001 Foreign Affairs article “The New Geography of Conflict” (subscription required). Klare is a controversial figure due to his unabashed critiques of the Bush administration and his habit of making the Left look Right. However, in this article, he outlines a pre-9/11 worldview that is interesting to examine in light of the last eight years.
The New York Times examines the tradeoffs between clean water and air from using coal power-plant scrubbers.
The Nation reports that a new movement in Pakistan is underway to prevent aliens from leasing land for foreign food production. These protest come on the heels of rising concern over food and water security.
A new gas line developed along the bed of the Baltic Sea may drive a political wedge between Western and Eastern Europe and could allow for increased Russian influence over Eastern Europe, The New York Times reports. The Russians are also looking to expand supply routes to the east and have struck a deal with China for natural gas exports.
Multi-National Force-Iraq reports that forward operating base Bucca is attempting to guarantee water security for local communities by completing the first phase of a water distribution project.
An Iranian prospecting firm found uranium and coltan deposits in Venezuela on Friday using aerial footage, according to The Jerusalem Post. The Mexico-based El Universal reports that the Venezuelan government denies any nuclear involvement with Iran and says that it will use the discovery to re-launch its aluminum industry.
We won't be posting today, but you can click here to see a new minerals op-ed by Sharon. Happy Columbus Day everyone!
Tune in to C-SPAN this morning at 9 a.m. to watch Sharon Burke, Vice President for Natural Security, on the Washington Journal.
Politico is reporting this morning on a $3 million dollar earmark to bring the rare earth mine at Mountain Pass, California back into full production. The mine, managed by Molycorp Minerals, is reportedly “one of the world’s richest sources of elements that are used in the production of powerful magnets for precision-guided missiles and smart bombs, handheld communication devices, wind turbines and hybrid cars.” The earmark was added to the House Defense appropriations bill by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and follows a reporting requirement in the House and Senate versions of 2010 National Defense Authorization Act for the Defense Department to explore the usage of rare earth minerals in the defense supply chain (you can read the rare earths section of the NDAA at length imbedded here in a previous post).