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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • “Critical Minerals Alaska” – Rising Demand and Supply Side Complications Combine as Catalysts to Establish Domestic Sources of Cobalt

    In his latest installment of “Critical Minerals Alaska” – a feature series for North of 60 Mining News that “investigates Alaska’s potential as a domestic source of minerals deemed critical to the United States,” Shane Lasley takes a closer look at Cobalt, one of the key metals underpinning the current EV technology revolution.

    Once an obscure metal you rarely heard about, this co-product of Nickel and Copper has recently been afforded “critical mineral status” – primarily because of its application in Lithium-ion battery technology. Meanwhile, U.S. import reliance for Cobalt is pegged at 72 percent, with recycling providing most of the balance.  This may change soon. Writes Lasley:

    “With at least one advanced stage exploration project in Alaska looking into the potential of producing cobalt alongside its copper, America’s 49th State could provide a domestic source for this critical metal.”

    In light of recent price surges for Cobalt, battery makers, among them Tesla, are looking to develop technologies that require less of the material. However, as Lasley points out:

    “Researchers and analysts do not see a scenario where the reduction of cobalt per battery can come close to offsetting the growing number of batteries that will be needed in the coming three decades.”

    Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts agrees, and in a recent tweet challenged Elon Musk to clarify what he meant when tweeting out his assumption that Tesla would reduce cobalt use to zero in their batteries in “next gen.” Moores believes it is “highly unlikely Tesla will be able to eliminate Cobalt from its supply chain entirely” and pegs the probability of such a scenario at one percent.

    With demand on the rise, complex supply chain complications have companies turn to the United States as a potential source of supply.

    As Lasley explains:

    “One of the difficulties is cobalt is seldom mined as a standalone metal. Instead, this increasingly needed battery metal is typically produced as a byproduct at copper and nickel mines. This means that any future cobalt mines would likely need to consider the economics of the moneymaking metal in the deposit.

    “This situation limits producers’ flexibility in adjusting the amount of cobalt mined in response to changes in demand and can result in periods of oversupply or shortage,” according to the USGS.

    While at lower prices, the cost to recover cobalt from copper or nickel mines may not have been economically viable, the demand electric vehicles are putting on this metal has companies taking a closer look at the feasibility of recovering cobalt exploring and developing copper deposits in the United States.”

    Further complicating the situation is Cobalt’s conflict mineral status, which has led to pressures on automakers to source the material outside the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from which a majority of Cobalt is currently sourced.  This, as Lasley points out, “could add to the catalysts to establish domestic sources of this critical metal.”

    To read the full piece, in which Lasley provides more detail on the feasible Cobalt development projects in Alaska, click here.

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  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: CMI Expands Collaborative Research Focus to Include Lithium and Cobalt

    The Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, is expanding its research on tech metals “as rapid growth in electric vehicles drives demand for lithium, cobalt.”

    According to a recent Ames Lab press release, the Institute will focus on maximizing the efficiency of processing, usage and recycling of Lithium and Cobalt starting this summer.

    Says CMI Director Alex King:

    “The global tech economy is heating up, and we’re likely to see high demand for a growing number of materials. We are trying to anticipate possible short-term supply issues through specifically targeted research and industry partnerships.”

    Since the research hub’s launch in 2013, it has engaged in 36 separate collaborative projects, most of which were initially focused on REEs.  CMI points out that while REEs will remain a key focal area, there is good reason to look beyond:

     “Other key manufacturing material supplies are in need of the Hub’s fast-moving collaborative approach. Research from National Laboratories and academic institutions is combined with engineering know-how from manufacturers, economic analyses, and assistance from AI and machine learning to rapidly find solutions to domestic shortages of manufacturing materials.

    The list of materials under CMI’s scrutiny has expanded to include not only lithium and cobalt, but also manganese, vanadium, gallium, indium, tellurium, platinum group metals, and graphite.”

    The advances of material science, which will yield new battery, solar cell and fuel cell technologies, will continue to drive demand for these materials.  CMI Deputy Director Rod Eggert points to associated possible supply challenges, and specifically the Co-Product challenge ARPN has recently outlined in a new report. Says Eggert:

    “These [materials] present possible supply challenges for a number of reasons.  Some of them are produced in small quantity as by-products of other mining processes; some are subject to unstable geopolitical conditions.” 

    In its research efforts, CMI relies on collaboration with academia as well as the private sector – an approach that has already yielded some great breakthroughs, several of which we have featured in our “Materials Science Profiles of Progress” series on the ARPN blog.

    To learn more about the above-referenced Co-Product challenge, read ARPN’s most recent report entitled “Through the Gateway. A Look at how Gateway Metals and their Co-Products Underpin Modern Technology”

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  • Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s World Tour Returns to U.S. this May

    Our friends from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence – formidable experts when it comes to battery tech and the mineral resources driving it – are returning to the U.S. in May for another round of their World Tour. This year’s tour will “focus on the supply chains for the next generation of battery technologies,” and seek to [...]
  • Sweden Tosses Hat Into Ring In Race For Materials Underpinning EV Revolution

    As the race for the metals and minerals driving the electric vehicle revolution heats up, and China continues to jockey for pole position, Sweden is tossing its hat into the ring.  According to recent media reports, the Swedish government has earmarked 10 million kronor ( roughly one million Euros) to explore the option of digging [...]
  • 2018 – A Tipping Point For U.S. Resource Policy and Related Industries?

    The following is a guest post by ARPN expert panel member Chris Berry, Founder, House Mountain Partners. His expertise focuses on, but is not limited to, energy metals including Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite, Vanadium and Rare Earths. The Executive Order recently signed by President Trump to prioritize domestic natural resource development couldn’t have come at a [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Nickel – The “Metal That Brought You Cheap Flights” Now “Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution”

    Another week, another great infographic by Visual Capitalist – this time on the “Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution” – Nickel. Long an important base metal because of its alloying capabilities, Nickel’s status as a Gateway Metal, yielding access to tech minerals like Cobalt, Palladium, Rhodium and Scandium – all of which are increasingly becoming [...]
  • Moores’ Law: The Rise of Lithium Ion Battery Megafactories and What it Means for Critical Mineral Resource Supply

    Earlier this month, Simon Moores, Managing Director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts testified before the full U.S. Senate Energy Committee on opportunities and risks in the energy storage supply chain.   We’re titling his observations as Moores’ Law — which is his for the taking, given the placement [...]
  • Senate Energy Committee Zeroes in on Energy Storage Revolution – Where Will the Battery Megafactories Get the Minerals and Metals They Need?

    Just last week, we highlighted the surge in EV technology and its implications for mineral resource supply and demand.  A timely subject – as evidenced by the fact that the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy held a “Full Committee Hearing “to Examine Energy Storage Technologies” this week. Simon Moores, Managing Director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence [...]
  • The Surge of EV Technology and Implications for Mineral Resource Supply and Demand

    You may have caught Elon Musk’s exchange with Daimler on Twitter over investment in EV technology earlier this week. Vacuum giant Dyson has also tossed its hat into the ring announcing that it will spend $2.7 billion to develop an electric car. The headlines are piling up, and it’s no longer a secret that demand [...]

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