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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Against Backdrop of Battery Arms Race, Chemists Receive Nobel Prize for Work on Lithium-Ion Technology

    Critical minerals are a hot button issue.  Materials that long seemed obscure like Rare Earths, Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite, and Nickel have entered the mainstream and are making headlines every day.  

    Against the backdrop of the ongoing materials science revolution and the intensifying battery arms race, it is only fitting that this month, three pioneers of Lithium-ion battery technology were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry.   Through their innovations, John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino, in the words of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that awards the prestigious prize every year, “created a rechargeable world.” 

    A post for Quantamagazine’s Abstractions blog outlines some of the details of the research accomplishments by Goodenough, Whittingham and Yoshino, who, by building on each other’s work, developed a Lithium-ion battery that — unlike the ones used before — were safe, lightweight, and highly efficient. According to Quantamagazine: “That design is ubiquitous today, powering portable electronics and helping to shift the world’s energy infrastructure in a more sustainable direction, as it allows electricity produced from renewable sources, such as the sun and the wind, to be efficiently stored and put to work.”

    Ultimately, in a nutshell, Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives since they first entered the market in 1991.  They have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind.

    Battery technology indeed has come a long way since the three Nobel Prize winners began their work in the field in the 1970s. After Sony introduced the first commercialized the Lithium-ion battery in 1991, camcorders were the biggest driver of demand for several years. Laptops replaced camcorders as biggest source of demand by 2000, and by 2010, the smart phone was the biggest driver of demand for Lithium-ion battery technology.

    Recently, however, fueled in particular by the advent of the electric vehicle (EV), developments in the field of battery technology have been kicked into high gear.

    The fact that Goodenough, Whittingham and Yoshino have finally been recognized for their contributions to the advancement of Lithium-ion battery technology is a testament to these developments and to the growing realization that, in the words of Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and a member of the ARPN panel of experts: “we have reached a new gear in this energy storage revolution which is now having a profound impact on supply chains and the raw materials that fuel it.” 

    Commenting on this year’s Nobel Prize award, Prof. Dame Carol Robinson, president of the British Royal Society of Chemistry, stated that battery tech research will remain an exciting field: 

    “It’s not the end of the journey, as lithium is a finite resource and many scientists around the world are building on the foundations laid by these three brilliant chemists.” 

    As this year’s Lithium-ion laureates remind us, in the meantime, it will be up to U.S. policy makers to devise prudent policies aimed at streamlining U.S. resource policy against a growing sense that the United States is becoming a “bystander” in the current battery arms race.

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  • With Rare Display of Bipartisanship in Congress and Resource Partnership Announcement With Allied Nations, Momentum Building for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    Late last week, we witnessed the formal announcement of a forthcoming roll out of an “action plan” to counter Chinese dominance in the critical minerals sector during Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s week-long state visit to the U.S..

    According to news reports the plan will “open a new front against China in a widening technology and trade war by exploiting Australian reserves of the rare earths and other materials that are essential for products ranging from iPhones to batteries and hybrid cars.”

    Partnerships with reliable allies like Australia will go far — but they must be complemented by increased domestic production of critical minerals in the United States.   As ARPN expert panel member and president and founder of government relations firm J.A. Green & Co. Jeff Green wrote in a recent piece for Real Clear Politics  — if policymakers want to get serious about securing U.S. access to rare earths, “any real solution must include investing in our domestic production capabilities.” 

    Thankfully, as the tech wars deepen, calls for increasing U.S. domestic production of critical minerals ranging from those underpinning the battery tech revolution to the Rare Earths that have filled headlines in recent months, are getting louder. 

    Chairing a full Senate Committee hearing to “examine the sourcing and use of minerals needed for clean energy technologies,” earlier last week U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in her opening remarks: 

    “Minerals are the fundamental building blocks for any modern technology, but they don’t just appear out of thin air. As our energy sector transitions to greater use of renewables, we must acknowledge that these technologies are built from materials that come from the ground. Batteries don’t work without lithium, graphite, cobalt and nickel; solar panels require silver gallium, indium, tellurium; and wind turbines are not just built from steel, but also aluminum, copper, and rare earth elements.”

    Witnesses testifying at the hearing, during the course of which Sen. Murkowski released a Congressional Research Service Report comparing global forecasts for minerals used in renewable technologies, told Senators that the renewable energy transition must involve greater investment in the domestic mining of critical minerals, including the rare earths.

    The question and answer session following the prepared expert remarks saw an unusual display of bipartisanship amongst Senators all of whom agreed that a more “holistic approach” to critical mineral resource policy was warranted and that when it comes to critical minerals extracting, processing, recycling… now is our call to action. 

    Ultimately, whether or not the U.S. can unleash its own mineral potential and compete with China in the tech wars of the 21st Century will depend on policy makers’ ability to come together. As Sen. Murkowski stated:

    “The United States is capable of being a leader in the development of the minerals needed for clean energy technologies. We have incredible high-grade deposits in states like Alaska, but we have also ceded production, manufacturing, and recycling to our competitors. (…) We have to find the political will to advance policies that allow us to rebuild a robust domestic supply chain. Until we do that, our nation’s ability to develop and lead the world in renewable energy will be limited.”

    The momentum is here. Let’s hope stakeholders seize it. 

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  • As Tech War Deepens Over REEs, Australia Steps Up to the Plate

    As the trade war between China and the United States deepens, concern over access to Rare Earths and other critical minerals is spreading all over the world.  While the U.S. is taking steps aimed at increasing domestic REE supplies — most recently manifesting in the Trump Administration’s invocation of the 69-year-old Defense Production Act and [...]
  • Greenland at the Heart of Resource Race in 21st Century Tech War

    While a deal is not likely to happen, and some question whether the comment was more quip than opening offer, President Trump’s recent interest in buying Greenland from Denmark has done one thing: bring Greenland and the Arctic into focus.   The President’s suggestion has been ridiculed by many, but from a strategic perspective — [...]
  • Resource Alert:  North of 60 Mining News Has Launched “Critical Minerals Alaska” Magazine and Dedicated Webpage

    Over the past few weeks, China’s threat to play the “rare earths card” has generated quite a buzz and, along with growing concerns over supply chains for battery tech, has directed much-needed attention to our nation’s over-reliance on foreign mineral resources.  As followers of ARPN know, many of these issues are in fact home-grown, as the United [...]
  • U.S. To Pursue National Electric Vehicle Supply Chain

    ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Simon Moores must have struck a nerve when he called the U.S. a “bystander” in the current battery arms race during a recent Congressional hearing. His message  —  “Those who control these critical raw materials and those who possess the manufacturing and processing know how, will [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member: Congress Must Resume Push Towards Greater Independence from Foreign Sources of Oil and Key Minerals

    “Electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids are the future, but getting past our current reliance on internal combustion engines will require secure, domestic sources for a plethora of important minerals, such as rare earth metals,” writes Major General Robert H. Latiff, a retired Air Force general with a background in materials science and manufacturing technology — and [...]
  • U.S. Currently Bystander in Global Battery Arms Race, ARPN Expert Tells U.S. Senate Committee

    A key global player, the United States is not used to being a bystander. Yet this is exactly what is currently happening, says Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Managing Director Simon Moores, addressing the full U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this morning. Delivering his testimony on the outlook for energy and minerals market in [...]
  • U.S. Senate to Hold Hearing on Energy and Mineral Markets, Member of ARPN Expert Panel to Testify

    We’ve called it “the new black.” The Guardian even went as far as ringing in the “Ion Age.”  Bearing testimony to the growing importance of battery technology, the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing examining the outlook for energy and minerals markets in the 116th Congress on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 with an emphasis on battery [...]
  • Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

    Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – “new kids on the block” arrive in groups. Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, [...]
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