-->
American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Automakers Pledge to Uphold Ethical and Socially Responsible Standards in Materials Sourcing. Where Will the Metals and Minerals Come From?

    Late last month, international automakers made headlines when pledging “to uphold ethical and socially responsible standards in their purchases of minerals for an expected boom in electric vehicle production.”

    As Reuters reported, a group of 10 car manufacturers have formed an initiative to “jointly identify and address ethical, environmental, human and labor rights issues in raw materials sourcing.”

    Members of the so-called “Drive Sustainability” partnership include Volkswagen, Toyota Motor Europe, Ford, Daimler, BMW, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, as well as Scania and Volvo.  According to Stefan Crets of the CSR Europe business network, the alliance will “assess the risks posed by the top raw materials (such as mica, cobalt, rubber and leather) in the automotive sector (…)” which will “allow Drive Sustainability to identify the most impactful activities to pursue” as automakers tackle supply chain-related issues.

    While a commitment to ethical and socially responsible standards is certainly welcome, followers of ARPN will understand that it is fraught with challenges and raises the question of where materials will come from.

    Take Cobalt, for example: Roughly 62 percent of global refined Cobalt is sourced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where production conditions are commonly known to involve child labor and poor environmental standards.

    Supply issues relating to other critical materials carmakers require – which include not only the above-referenced Mica, Cobalt, Rubber and Leather, but also Graphite and Lithium, as carmakers invest more in electric vehicle (EV) technology – are less well known but equally challenging.

    Case in point:  Lithium Ion batteries, a key component of EV technology, use both naturally-mined flake Graphite as well as synthetic Graphite, in which the former accounts for roughly 60% of inputs, and the latter for roughly 40%. According to Simon Moores, Managing Director of Benchmark Minerals and member of the ARPN panel of experts, China – arguably not a leader in environmental standards – dominates natural flake mining at 62% of global production in 2016, followed by Brazil at 23%.  A similar scenario unfolds for refining, most of which also takes place in China.  China’s graphite mining standards have come under fire and were featured in an in-depth Washington Post piece last year.

    Mica sourcing is another problematic area.  Used in car paint and coveted for its ability to reflect and refract light, Mica has raised red flags in the past for child labor issues in its supply chains. The U.S., which is 100% import dependent to meet its sheet Mica needs (but only 48% import dependent for scrap and flake Mica), is fortunate to import most of its supply from close ally Canada, but once again, a large portion of imports are sourced from China (32%), which also accounts for the majority of global Mica output, followed by India (13%).

    Automakers are not the first ones to pledge ethically and socially responsible sourcing of materials – problems relating to Cobalt have previously prompted tech giants like Apple and Tesla to rethink their sourcing strategies, with Apple even going as far as announcing their goal of working towards a “closed-loop supply chain where products are built using only renewable resources or recycled material.”

    In their quest to meet pledged goals, automakers should join forces with those who promote efforts to create policy frameworks that foster both recycling and the responsible mining of mineral resources we need today, and will increasingly rely on in the future.

    Share
  • China Jockeys for Pole Position in EV Industry

    ARPN followers know it’s the elephant in the room. China. Already vast and resource-rich, the country has demonstrated an insatiable appetite for the world’s mineral resources and has pursued an aggressive strategy to gain access to the materials needed to meet the world’s largest population’s resource needs.

    Thus, it comes as no surprise that China is also jockeying for “Pole Position,” as Robert Blain writes for China Daily Asia Weekly in what may well be one of the hottest commodity fields of our time: EV battery technology and the electric car industry as a whole – from “vehicle manufacturing and sales to battery technology.” 

    Demand for EV technology is surging in China, as electric and hybrid car sales are growing at a rapid pace. A recent survey cited in the article found that while Germany took the top spot for EV technology, China is emerging as an industry leader: “In industry, China has confirmed its pole position. The reason for this is the continuing rapid growth of the market, more than 90 percent of which is supplied with lithium- ion cells produced locally. This high local share is partly due to the fact that subsidies only apply where there is local value creation.”

     The article heavily quotes our friend and member of the ARPN panel of experts, Simon Moores of Benchmark Minerals. Moores believes that “there is no doubt China is the global hub for the electric vehicle revolution.” 

    He is quoted as saying: 

    “China is producing its own electric vehicles, but the export vehicles are first likely to be Western-branded ones. For example, [US electric-car maker] Tesla is looking to make batteries in a new Gigafactory near Shanghai. This is the first step in making Tesla EVs in China for the domestic and export market. VW [Volkswagen] has similar grand plan.”

    Ultimately, according to Moores, “for foreign car manufacturers to have power in the EV market, ‘they need to be in China.’”

    The article continues: 

    “China is also very well positioned in the production and export of lithium-ion batteries typically used to power electric cars. ‘China already produces the bulk of lithium-ion battery cathode material,’ said Moores. ‘It is locking up the lithium supply chain through Ganfeng Lithium and to a lesser extent Tianqi Lithium. It controls cobalt supply and battery grade refining and produces the vast majority of the world’s graphite anode material.’ Nearly 70 percent of all new lithium-ion battery capacity being built in new megafactory structures will be based in China, he said.”

    In a recent commentary for Investor’s Business Daily, our very own Dan McGroarty pointed out China’s prominent role as a lead supplier of the world’s mineral resources :

    “As noted by the U.S. Geological Survey, we are 100% import-dependent for 20 metals and minerals, and 50% or more dependent for another 50. As for where the U.S. obtains these metals and minerals it needs but does not mine, China is a leading supplier of 28 of the 50 — up from 21 just a year ago.”

    Time for policy makers to take note. We may not always be able to significantly reduce our reliance on foreign mineral resources, but where possible, we should work towards that goal – particularly when our lead suppliers are not the most reliable trading partners. We have several opportunities to do so – some of which McGroarty outlined in his commentary.  

    China will certainly remain a force to be reckoned with in the mineral resource realm, but Lithium and Lithium-ion technology represent a great case in point for comprehensive mining policy reform in the United States.

    Share
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for Investor’s Business Daily: U.S. Mineral Resource Dependence a “Clear and Present Danger”

    Against the backdrop of growing threats to U.S. security – recent flash points involve Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – a new Presidential Executive Order “On Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States,” zeroes in on defense readiness. The E.O. requires heads from various [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • The Arctic – A Looming Battlefield for Resource Supremacy?

    While relations between Russia and the United States continue to make headlines on a daily basis, one particular aspect of this relationship – in spite of the fact that it may be one of the most contentious ones – has been largely flying under the radar. As Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin recently wrote: [...]
  • North Korean Brinkmanship Highlights Nexus Between Resource Policy and Geopolitics

    At ARPN, we have long highlighted the important but oft-overlooked nexus between resource policy and geopolitics.   The latest case in point is South Korea, which, as ARPN President Daniel McGroarty points out in his latest opinion piece for Fox News, is navigating murky waters “talking sunshine and Rare Earths as North Korean war clouds gather.” For decades, [...]
  • The U.S. Tomahawk Strike – Syria, Russia … and China?

    While the world media mulls the impact of the U.S. airstrike on Syria in the wake of the sarin gas attack and marvel at the accuracy of the Tomahawk cruise missile, friends of ARPN are reminded that the rare earths critical to the Tomahawk’s terminal guidance system are sourced from China. An interesting sidebar to [...]
  • China’s REE Stranglehold Comes Back Into Focus

    If the first few weeks with a new administration at the helm in Washington, DC are any indication, we will see more efforts to make sweeping changes in federal policy in the coming weeks.  One area where President Donald Trump promised changes on the campaign trail is trade – and specifically relations with China. In [...]
  • Graphite: At the Core of Your Pencil, 21st Century Technology, and Geopolitical Resource Warfare

    It may be its most well-known use, but Graphite today is at the core of more than just your pencil – it is at the core of 21st Century consumer technology.  Just ask Elon Musk. The Tesla Motors CEO and futurist recently insinuated that the label “Lithium-Ion battery” may actually be a misnomer for the batteries that power [...]

Archives