American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Vanadium’s Time to Shine?

    Steve LeVine, Future Editor at Axios and Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council, has called it “one of the most confounding areas of research” and a “technology that, while invented more than two centuries ago, is still frustrating scientists.”   It is also one of the areas where one of the key growth industries – the electronic vehicle segment – is making massive investments to achieve breakthroughs: We’re talking about battery technology.

    Supply concerns for the materials underpinning this technology are increasingly forcing automakers and other industries relying on energy storage, such as utilities, to step up their efforts both boost the amount of energy batteries can store and diversify materials used to achieve these efficiencies.

    Lithium, Cobalt and Nickel have long been the shining stars of battery technology, but there is a new kid on the block – particularly in the area of stationary storage.

    Simon Moores, member of the ARPN panel of experts and Managing Director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, believes that Vanadium’s time to shine may have come.  Addressing attendees of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s World Tour in Melbourne Australia, Moores said that “if the vanadium market gets a number of key [mines] up and running quickly, vanadium flow could have its ‘lithium ion battery moment’ — its Elon Musk moment.”

    Traditionally known as an alloying component in various steels, where its strengthening properties come to bear, Vanadium has been used in the building and construction industry for a long time. Ferrovanadium alloys have also been used in protective military vehicles while a Titanium-Aluminum-Vanadium alloy is used in jet engines and high-speed aircraft.  While Vanadium flow battery technology has been around for a while, first-generation batteries were mired by inefficiencies ad costliness. Initial breakthroughs in 2011 increased storage capacity of Vanadium by 70 percent – and more R&D is continuing to yield further improvements. Vanadium flow battery technology today, however, is considered well established and commercially viable, leading Moores and his colleagues to estimate that by 2028, 50 percent of the “burgeoning stationary storage market will be lithium-ion, and 25 per cent vanadium flow batteries.”

    This emerging development, in turn, invites a theme that is very familiar for ARPN followers — the co-product challenge. As we have previously pointed out:

    “According to USGS, Vanadium [ a co-product of Aluminum ]  is at least as plentiful as Nickel and Zinc, at least in terms of its availability in the earth’s crust. However, it rarely occurs in deposits that can be economically mined for the element alone. Between 2009 and 2013, some co-product vanadium production occurred domestically (though not from Bauxite mining for Aluminum), but it has since been suspended. As a result, the United States is currently 100% import dependent for its domestic Vanadium needs – in spite of the fact that ‘domestic resources and secondary recovery are adequate to supply a large portion of domestic needs.’

    This once more begs the question – isn’t it time for a more comprehensive approach to mineral resource policy?”

    The inclusion of Vanadium on the Department of Interior’s list of 35 minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security was a logical first step. Now appropriate policy reforms must follow.

  • REEs Back in Spotlight as Growing Awareness of Strategic Importance Has Trade Officials Remove Them From Tariff Target List 

    After a few years of relative quiet, Rare Earth Elements are back in the spotlight.

    Initially a target included on a provisional list of tariffs to be imposed on Chinese goods released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) earlier this summer, Rare Earth metals and their compounds have been excluded from the final list of tariffs announced earlier this week — which speaks to the growing awareness of their strategic importance in the United States.

    A provision in the recently-signed John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515) prohibiting the Department of Defense and its contractors from acquiring certain sensitive materials including certain REEs from the likes of Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea provides a recent case in point.

    Dylan Kelly, resource analyst with CLSA in Sydney, Australia, says the law “clearly highlighted how exposed the nation was to any kind of disruption to the Chinese supply chain,” and added that U.S. politicians “should be very aware of the corner they have pinned themselves into.”

    In the mining sector, the provision struck a cord.  As Curt Freeman, member of the American Resources Policy Network panel of experts, wrote for North of 60 Mining News:

    “Underscoring the interconnected nature of the global mining market, not 48 hours after the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, the mining industry began wondering out loud how they were going to produce rare earth element, tungsten, tantalum and molybdenum in the near future.”

    Against this background, news that a U.S.-based company “has begun ongoing monthly production of recycled lamp phosphors into separated rare earth products” in Nebraska is a welcome one. According to a Roskill report,  Rare Earth Salts (RES) “is expecting to break ground at the end of 2018 on an expansion to increase production capacity to 3,500tpy REO in a staged fashion. It plans to produce other separated rare earth oxides, focussing on neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium oxides in partnership with Minera BioLantanidos and Medallion Resources.”

    Analysts expect demand for Neodymium and Praesodymium – key components in permanent magnet motors used in EV technology – to increase.  Meanwhile, as Roskill points out:

    “For the USA, supplying domestic feedstock is only the first step in securing a supply chain for rare earth permanent magnets, as capacity to produce NdPr metal alloys and neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets in the USA is very limited. Unless there is significant investment into downstream NdPr products, it is likely that neodymium and praseodymium compounds produced in the USA would be exported to China, Europe and Japan, where high-quality Nd-Pr alloy and NdFeB magnet capacity already exists.”

    The long-awaited yet once again delayed defense industrial base study — findings of which are expected to focus heavily on China’s attempts to buy up or infiltrate key defense technologies showing that “rare earth minerals are particularly at risk” — will only underscore the urgency of the situation.

  • ARPN Expert: To Counter China’s Mineral Resource Dominance, U.S. Apathy About Critical Minerals Must End  

    Followers of ARPN know that China is the big elephant in the room when it comes to the United States’ critical mineral resource supply issues.  As ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, an adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, and “Rare Mettle” author Ann Bridges write in (…) more

  • A Non-Flashy Yet Essential Critical Mineral – Barite   

    If you haven’t had of Barite, you’re excused – even for avid followers of ARPN Barite is not among the first that come to mind of when you think of critical minerals. It has, however, attained that status with its inclusion in the Department of Interior’s list of 35 metals and minerals considered critical to (…) more

  • Race to Control Battery Tech Underscores Need for Comprehensive Resource Policy 

    Against the backdrop of the ongoing electric vehicle revolution, automakers are increasingly forced to deal with the realities of resource supply.  One of these realities was spelled out in clear terms by a Wall Street Journal report which stated: “There’s a Global Race to Control Batteries – and China is Winning.  Chinese companies dominate the (…) more

  • Resource Policy’s Butterfly Effect – South Africa’s Landownership Issues to Cripple U.S. Defense Arsenal?

    Can the taking of a farm in South Africa cripple the American defense arsenal?  We’re about to find out – says ARPN’s principal Daniel McGroarty in a new piece for Investor’s Business Daily. Invoking the so-called “Butterfly Effect” – an expression used to describe the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system (…) more

  • While Some Reforms Fizzled, Enacted NDAA Contains Potentially Precedent-Setting REE Sourcing Provision

    As we have noted, the recently-signed John S. McCain (may he rest in peace) National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), stands as a missed opportunity to enact several meaningful mineral resource policy reforms. Nonetheless, one provision of the signed legislation marks an important development for the realm of resource policy – (…) more

  • A New Theater for the Global Resource Wars?  A Look at Antarctica

    At ARPN, we have long argued that we need comprehensive mineral resource policy reform.  One of the main reasons we have finally seen some momentum on this front is the growing realization that there is a global race for the metals and minerals fueling 21st Century technology and our everyday lives — something that our (…) more

  • Lithium – Challenges and Opportunities Underscore Need for Domestic Resource Policy Overhaul

    In an interview with InvestingNews.com, Simon Moores, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s managing director and a member of the ARPN panel of experts, discusses challenges relating to Lithium – one of the key materials underpinning EV battery technology. Moores says that big challenges still lie in bringing new supply to the market, but the situation is not (…) more

  • The Lightweighting Revolution Continues – But Supply Challenges Loom Large

    Materials science continues to yield innovative discoveries at neck-breaking speed.   Followers of ARPN are aware of Scalmalloy – an “aluminum alloy powder ‘with almost the specific strength of titanium’ [used] to build incredible structures by fusing thin layers of the material together.” One of its key components is Scandium – which explains the first (…) more