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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Why Cobalt Should be High on Your Radar

    In a recent article, the Financial Times zeroes in on one of the metals followers of ARPN will know is becoming increasingly indispensable to 21st Century clean energy technology: Cobalt. 

    Once an obscure metal you rarely heard about, this co-product of Nickel and Copper is increasingly afforded “critical mineral status” – primarily because of its application in Lithium-ion battery technology.

    The Financial Times calls out electric carmaker Tesla for only once mentioning the word “cobalt” in a 111-page draft prospectus for a proposed $1.5bn senior note offering:

    “This cursory mention of the electric carmaker’s dependence on the metal must have passed a formulaic test of what securities laws require. It may not, however, pass a laugh test among those familiar with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of world cobalt production and is the principal prospective source of new supply. Tesla has always been a company of the future funded by investors’ equity. The problem with a debt issue (the $1.5bn note matures in 2025), is that there is a more certain date with material reality.

    It has become more apparent that cobalt supply could be the choke point for the mass production of electric vehicles that are capable of replacing the standard car or light truck.”

     The Financial Times piece correctly argues that the most significant barrier to EV mass production is not so much price – even though prices have indeed soared – it is the availability of supply. As we have previously pointed out

    “On a global scale, 93 percent of the Cobalt refined in China – the world’s biggest Cobalt consumer – originates in the DRC, which, at 3,400,000 metric tons, is also home to the world’s largest Cobalt reserve.
    Roughly 62 percent of global refined Cobalt is sourced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where production conditions involving involve child labor and poor environmental standards in some instances, have invited sharp criticism, but have prompted tech companies to re-evaluate their sourcing strategies.”

    And while optimists point to new Cobalt development projects around the world and argue that “lithium-ion batteries’ cobalt requirements can be engineered down,” there is no near-term silver bullet. Substitution will require significant amounts of time, testing and investment, and the DRC will remain a crucial factor. 

     Caspar Rawles, analyst for Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, recently put it bluntly: 

    “While there are a number of new cobalt projects being developed around the world, quite simply: there will be no electric vehicle industry without DRC cobalt.” 

    Domestic projects coming online are welcome developments to alleviate certain pressures and concerns, and should be part of a comprehensive overall mineral resource strategy for the United States but they can only be a starting point. Cobalt needs to be high on everyone’s radar, not a footnote in dusty financial documents. 

  • Geopolitical Movements in Resource-Rich Arctic Begin to Draw Attention

    Recent developments in a geographic region ARPN followers have come to know as one of the sites of looming battles and territorial disputes in the resource war theater – the Arctic – are drawing the attention of domestic military commanders.
    Speaking at a recent event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in July of this year, where he referenced recent geopolitical movements by Russia and China, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft said

    “As I look at what is playing out in the Artic, it looks eerily familiar to what we are seeing in the East and South China Sea. (…) Russia has claimed most of the Arctic Ocean all the way up to the North Pole and as a signatory of the Law of the Sea Convention has filed this claim. (…) The Snow Dragon [China’s research icebreaker]…is on her way up to the Arctic from China. (…) And they routinely stop and do research in our extended continental shelf. They’ve established a pattern.” 

    Indeed, there has been an uptick in Russian and Chinese activity in (and relating to) the Arctic circle region in recent years, ranging from Russia’s recent invitation for visitors to take a “visual tour” of its new military base in Franz Josef Land to China’s apparent incorporation of the Arctic into its “new Silk Road Strategy,” with increased diplomacy and investment in the region.

     One would hope Admiral Zukunft’s comments indicate a growing awareness on the part of the United States, which, up until recently, has been “woefully behind” in the Arctic race, as former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp recently lamented

     “We’ve got our minds on a lot of other things around the world, and we’re not focused on the Arctic. (…) Russia, on the other hand, is very connected. It’s part of their culture. They appreciatethe riches, the oil and gas reserves that they have along that very long coastline, and they are looking to exploit it for their own prosperity.

    For the U.S., our Arctic claims come via Alaska, which – across a range of metals and minerals — can play a key role in resource supply in the 21st Century. As we have previously argued:

    “…one can only hope that the recent settlement between the EPA and the Pebble Partnership over the Pebble Deposit in Alaska – albeit years overdue – will be part of a growing realization that it is time to assertively stake the United States’ claim in the Arctic and near-Arctic environs. The other players have made it clear that they will not wait for us.”

     

  • AEMA Website Gets Fresh Look

    Our friends at the American Exploration and Mining Association (AEMA), headed up by Laura Skaer, have overhauled their website.  The “122-year old, 2,000 member, national association representing the minerals industry” and the “entire mining life cycle” shares news about its mission and advocacy efforts, and provides information about annual meetings as well as facts about (…) more

  • Critical Materials Institute Meets “Stretch Goal” to Produce REE Magnet Domestically

    Meeting one of its “stretch goal[s] to demonstrate that rare-earth magnets could be produced from mine to manufacturer, here in the United States,” the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub, has announced that the has fabricated magnets made entirely of domestically sourced and refined REEs.  This success was achieved in (…) more

  • Rare Metal Find Brings Seabed Mining Back into Focus

    Japanese researchers have discovered a vast deposit of “rare and important” metals on the seabed off the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. According to the Asahi Shimbun, “the cobalt-rich crust forms around rocks on the seabed” in an area of about 950 square kilometers to the East of Tokyo. The deposit is said to (…) more

  • ARPN’s Dan McGroarty Delivers “Sobering” Testimony on Mineral Resource Challenge Before Senate Committee

    In his testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this week, ARPN Principal Dan McGroarty warned of the challenges of our growing dependence on foreign mineral resources.  McGroarty contrasted his mineral resource outlook with that of the energy side, where we are witnessing the a remarkable resurgence and “emergence of a (…) more

  • ARPN’s Dan McGroarty to Testify Before U.S. Senate Committee on Mineral Resource Security

    As ARPN followers know, our growing reliance on foreign mineral resources has serious implications for our national security, competitiveness and the resurgence of American manufacturing. Against this background, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will be holding a timely hearing to “Examine the Status & Outlook for U.S. and North American Energy (…) more

  • Africa Taking Center Stage in China’s Quest for Resources

    It is “the single largest source of mineral commodities for the United States, particularly for resources like rare earth elements, germanium, and industrial diamonds,” according to the United States Geological Survey, which notes in its most recent Mineral Commodity Summaries report that “of the 47 mineral commodities that the United States is more than 50 (…) more

  • Happy Independence Day! We’re Free, Yet So Dependent

    Happy Birthday, America! Another trip around the sun, and we’re back on the eve of the 4th of July gearing up for parades, barbecues and fireworks in honor of the men and women who have fought, and continue to safeguard our freedom today. Last year, we used this opportunity to point out that while we cherish (…) more

  • Boron: Of “Slime,” Materials Science and Trade Balances

    If you have preschoolers or grade schoolers at home on summer break, chances are you’ve already had to make “slime.”   Researching the various recipes to make the latest kids’ craze, you will likely also have come across one often-used ingredient: Borax. While Borax has long been a traditional staple in American laundry rooms, borates are increasingly becoming (…) more

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