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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Europe Forges Ahead With Battery Gigafactory Buildout As U.S. Still Struggles to Get Off Starting Block

    The current coronavirus pandemic may have thrown a wrench into the gears of many industries, but — against the backdrop of skyrocketing materials supply needs in the context of the green energy transition — Europe continues to forge ahead with the buildout of its large-scale battery gigafactory capacity. 

    According to London-based Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, whose analysts forecast that at least European 16 plants will be operational by 2030, there have been “some issues with cell producers in Europe struggling to ramp cell production in new facilities to meet demand, but in terms of construction timelines the plants to date have remained on schedule.” 

    With the World Bank forecasting that production of metals and minerals like graphite, lithium and cobalt will have to increase by nearly 500 percent by 2050 to meet global demand for renewable energy technology, this development comes as no surprise.  Growing mineral resource pressures in the context of the low-carbon transition are also prompting global miners to shift their traditional focus, as evidenced most recently by Rio Tinto’s decision to invest almost $200 to move to the next development stage of the lithium-borate Jadar project in Serbia.

    While China continues to hold the pole position as the world’s largest producer of lithium ion batteries, a continuation of the European gigafactory buildout at the above-referenced pace would put Europe at a total annual production capacity of 446 GWh and place the region in second place.  It would also perpetuate the bystander status into which the United States has maneuvered itself in the context of the global battery arms race.

    Earlier this year, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s managing director and member of the ARPN panel of experts Simon Moores argued that  

    “[i]n February 2019, there were 70 battery megafactories in the pipeline of which 46 are in China and 5 in the USA. Today there are 136 of these super-sized electric vehicle battery plants in operation or being planned: 101 in China and 8 in the USA. China is building a battery gigafactory (megafactory) at the rate of one every week; the USA at one every four months. In 2019, China produced 72% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries whereas the USA only 9%.”

    Testifying before the U.S. Senate in June of this year, Moores renewed his call for decisive U.S. action by invoking the U.S.’s successful creation of a widespread semiconductor industry in the 1980s:

    “The lead that the USA built in semiconductors and computing power due to companies like Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel Corporation has sustained the USA’s dominance in global computing for over 5 decades.

    Likewise, those who invest in battery capacity and supply chains today are likely to dominate this industry for generations to come.

    It is not too late for the US but action is needed now.”

    While U.S. policymakers are increasingly aware of the urgency of our nation’s critical mineral needs — a case in point being the formation of a bipartisan Critical Materials Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives late last month) — political calculations in a watershed election year won’t make it easy for reform-minded lawmakers to chance the status quo. 

    However, a look at Europe’s forging ahead with its gigafactory buildout should serve as a reminder that the rest of the world won’t wait for us.

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  • ARPN’s Wirtz: “COVID Should Be the Last Warning the U.S. Needs to Bolster Mineral Resource Security”

    ***Posted by Daniel McGroarty***

    “The current coronavirus pandemic has exposed significant supply chain challenges associated with our over-reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) raw materials,”  writes ARPN’s Sandra Wirtz in a new piece for The Economic Standard:  

    “PPE has become the poster child, but whether it’s smart phone technology, solar panels, electric vehicles, or fighter jets — critical minerals are integrated into all aspects of U.S. supply chains. And, in spite of the fact that the United States is rich in mineral resources, we have maneuvered ourselves into a situation where we often find ourselves at the mercy of China.”

    Outlining the genesis and extent of our over-reliance on largely Chinese-sourced mineral resources, Wirtz argues that while the main focus has been on rare earths, our supply chain vulnerabilities stretch far beyond, as evidenced most recently by the findings of the new World Bank report on “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition.”

    With COVID as the catalyst, that message is resonating with U.S. policymakers, in the Cabinet Departments and at the White House. Wirtz outlines several current policy initiatives aimed at alleviating our supply chain vulnerabilities:

    • U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s Onshoring Rare Earths Act of 2020, or ORE Act, which defines ‘critical minerals’ as the 17 Rare earths plus four key minerals underpinning battery tech;  
    • the expansion of the Department of Energy’s “target list” for project proposals to develop next gen extraction, separation and processing technologies for five rare earths plus cobalt, lithium, manganese and natural graphite; and
    • two new Executive Orders which would promote domestic mineral resource development. 

    She closes:

    “All of which is to say that, after long period of inaction, the U.S. Government seems to be viewing strategic materials and critical minerals issues with a new seriousness.  That’s a welcome development.  COVID, with its sudden disruption of supply chains, should be the last warning the U.S. needs to bolster our mineral resource security going forward.”

    Read the full piece here.

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  • Demand for Certain Metals and Minerals to Increase by Nearly 500%, According to New World Bank Study

    At ARPN, we have long argued that the current push towards a lower-carbon future is not possible without mining, as green energy technology relies heavily on a score of critical metals and minerals. The World Bank’s latest report, entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” published earlier this week in the context of the [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member on Strategic Metals Supply Chain in an Era of De-Globalization

    The trade war between China and the U.S., tensions between Russia and the West, the green energy transition — today’s political, geopolitical and economic pressures have significant implications for resource development. In a new piece on his blog, ARPN expert panel member and president of President of House Mountain Partners, LLC Chris Berry discusses “[t]he Strategic [...]
  • U.S. To Pursue National Electric Vehicle Supply Chain

    ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Simon Moores must have struck a nerve when he called the U.S. a “bystander” in the current battery arms race during a recent Congressional hearing. His message  —  “Those who control these critical raw materials and those who possess the manufacturing and processing know how, will [...]
  • “Something Does not Come from Nothing” – Formulation of Mineral Resource Strategy Should be a Precursor to Green Energy Debate

    “Something does not come from nothing. That fact can be easily forgotten when it comes to seemingly abstract concepts like ‘energy,’” writes Angela Chen in a new piece for technology news and media network The Verge. Chen zeroes in on four key metals and minerals that have become indispensable components of green energy technology – Neodymium, [...]
  • U.S. Currently Bystander in Global Battery Arms Race, ARPN Expert Tells U.S. Senate Committee

    A key global player, the United States is not used to being a bystander. Yet this is exactly what is currently happening, says Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Managing Director Simon Moores, addressing the full U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this morning. Delivering his testimony on the outlook for energy and minerals market in [...]
  • U.S. Senate to Hold Hearing on Energy and Mineral Markets, Member of ARPN Expert Panel to Testify

    We’ve called it “the new black.” The Guardian even went as far as ringing in the “Ion Age.”  Bearing testimony to the growing importance of battery technology, the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing examining the outlook for energy and minerals markets in the 116th Congress on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 with an emphasis on battery [...]
  • Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

    Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – “new kids on the block” arrive in groups. Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, [...]
  • 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 [...]

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