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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 U.S. national security.

    In his latest installment of his series “Critical Minerals Alaska” for North of 60 Mining News, Shane Lasley spotlights what makes the metal a critical mineral:

    “While not the flashiest of the 35 minerals on the United States Geological Survey’s critical list, barite plays an essential role in America’s energy sector.

    Barite got its name from the Ancient Greek word for heavy, barús, and it is the high specific gravity that earned this mineral its name that makes it a critical mineral.”

    Lasley quotes USGS which stated in its 2018 Mineral Commodity Summaries report that “more than 90 percent of the barite sold in the United States was used as a weighting agent in fluids used in the drilling of oil and natural gas wells.” Other applications include its use in as filler, extender or weighting agents in a variety of products ranging from paints to plastic and rubber. It is widely used in the automobile and metal-casting industries, as well as the medical field where its ability to block x-ray and gamma-ray emissions makes it the perfect aggregate in high-density concrete.

    Meanwhile, U.S. domestic production of Barite is declining, with only two mines and a temporary mining project active in 2017, according to USGS.  The exact numbers for domestic barite production were withheld for the 2018 Mineral Commodity Summaries report, but of the roughly 3 million metric tons of Barite used in the U.S, more than 75 percent is imported from China.

    With domestic production faltering, that number can only be expected to grow — and once more, China, which already supplies more than half of the world’s Barite and is the main import source for the metal used in the U.S. may step in to fill any void.

    USGS does not provide numbers on available domestic resources or reserves — but as Lasley points out, there are several metal-rich deposits in Alaska “that host intriguing quantities of this critical drill mud mineral.”

    In light of its properties and the supply and demand picture, Barite has earned its stripes as a critical mineral — now it is up to policy makers to devise a comprehensive policy framework that fosters the responsible domestic development of our mineral resources.

    Click here to read Shane Lasley’s full piece for North of 60 Mining News.

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  • 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 cobalt supply chain that begins at mines in Congo.”

    Meanwhile, amidst growing demand for what is one of the key materials underpinning EV technology, the price for Cobalt has almost doubled over the past two years. Realizing the increasingly risk of a “bottleneck in the supply of materials used in the standard power source of the world’s growing fleet of electric vehicles,” automakers are stepping up their efforts to “not only boost the amount of energy batteries can hold using the same amount of raw materials, but also to switch to more abundant metals,” writes Henry Sanderson in a new piece for the Financial Times.

    Sanderson — who had previously outlined some of the R&D efforts currently underway ranging from work on all-solid-state batteries to more conventional efforts including the shift towards batteries that use more Nickel and up to 75 percent less Cobalt — cites consultancy group Wood Mackenzie, which estimates that low-cobalt batteries “will make up the majority of the electric car market by 2025.”

    However, even with a shift to low-Cobalt batteries factored into the equation, demand for Cobalt is still expected to more than double, as zero-Cobalt solid state battery tech is not considered feasible.

    Meanwhile, the current efforts to diversify away from the metal may increase demand for another material – Vanadium. While generally more abundant that Cobalt, new challenges loom large here, too.  As we previously pointed out:

    “It’s a story with a familiar theme for ARPN followers — the co-product challenge:

    According to USGS, Vanadium 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.’”

    With all the investments poured into research and development, the materials science revolution may well yield the next breakthrough at some point.  However, regardless of which technology will win the day – the race for pole position in the EV technology sector only underscores the need for a comprehensive policy framework that accounts for the ever-changing realities of mineral resource supply and demand over the patchwork approach we have so far witnessed.

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  • 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 [...]
  • 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 – [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Space Force Plans Raise the Stakes to Overhaul U.S. Mineral Resource Policy

    Last week, the U.S. Government outlined plans to establish a sixth military branch – the United States Space Force.   According to Vice President Mike Pence, who announced the plans during a speech at the Pentagon, the new force would be led by a four-star commander, and funding in the federal budget would begin for [...]
  • Soon To-Be-Released Defense Industrial Base Study May “Revolutionize Approach to Supply-Chain Security and  Strategic Materials”

    A good year ago, a presidential Executive Order (E.O. 13806) mandated the completion of a study to assess the “Manufacturing Capacity, Defense Industrial Base, and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States.” According to a well-informed administration source, this defense industrial base study is now nearing completion, reports Breaking Defense. However, as Sydney J. Friedberg [...]
  • “Critical Minerals Alaska:” A Familiar Scenario for Tungsten – Chinese Domination and U.S. Prospects

    Pop quiz: Which metal has “the highest melting point of all the elements on the periodic table, (…) is a vital ingredient to a wide-range of industrial and military applications,” has made the Department of Interior’s final list of 35 metals deemed critical to U.S. national security, “yet none of this durable metal is currently [...]

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