American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Through the Gateway: A Look at Cadmium

    Most of us have heard of Cadmium as a component of NiCd (Nickel-Cadmium) batteries.  To date, this also happens to be the most frequent use for the metal, accounting for about 85% of the Cadmium consumed globally in 2015.

    A silvery metal with a bluish surface tinge, Cadmium is corrosion-resistant and its oxides are insoluble in water.  Nearly all the world’s Cadmium is derived as a co-product from Zinc sulfide ore, which is mined in many countries.  In the U.S., according to USGS, two companies produced refined Cadmium in 2015 – one by way of co-product recovery, and the other one by way of recycling of secondary cadmium metal from spent NiCd batteries and other scrap.

    Over the past few years, there have been a slew of European Union directives classifying Cadmium as a toxic “hazardous substance” and prohibiting its use in many consumer products, including NiCD batteries in most power tools and Cadmium-containing quantum dots for light-emitting diodes for displays.  However, usage of industrial-sized NiCd batteries in electricity storage from photovoltaic systems could counter some of the decline in Cadmium usage.

    The current solar power boom could do the same – and once again underscores our Gateway Metal/Co-product Metal focus:  Lab results for Cadmium-Telluride solar cells scored CdTe technology breaking efficiency records when it comes to converting energy in sunlight into electricity.  Just like Cadmium, Tellurium is also a co-product metal (though unlike Cadmium, it is not a Zinc co-product, but rather derived mostly in the Copper refinement process).  As such, both Cadmium and Tellurium are not mined in their own rights — but they are essential to a key 21st Century technology.

    In light of materials sciences’ rapid pace of discoveries of new applications for metals and minerals, other new applications for Cadmium may also be found.

    While exact data are withheld, the U.S. is currently considered a net exporter of Cadmium. However, what is instructive here is the fact that the metal is almost exclusively derived as a co-product – so whatever happens to the Gateway Metal Zinc will in some shape or form affect the supply scenario for Cadmium. Or, in other words, the road to Cadmium leads Through the Gateway.

  • A Look at Gateway Metal Import Dependence: Copper – 25 Years of Rising Dependence

    If our trip Through the Gateway holds one lesson so far, it’s that old patterns and paradigms are out the window.  Advances in technology and materials sciences have changed the applications for many mainstay metals and are fueling demand.   As we have outlined, the same applies for numerous rare tech metals, which are primarily sourced as co-product metals in the refinement process for our Gateway Metals Copper, Aluminum, Tin, Zinc and Nickel.

    With access to these tech metals being contingent on the availability of their respective Gateway Metal(s), the geopolitical dimension of resource policy becomes all the more important.   Not too long ago, a USGS analysis painted a troubling picture, showing that across the board, our reliance on foreign non-fuel minerals has significantly increased over the examined 60-year time frame.

    We decided to zero in import dependence percentages specifically for our Gateway Metals, using the last 25 years of data provided by USGS in its Mineral Commodity Summaries.  A look at the trend line for our first Gateway Metal, Copper, which provides us with access to Rhenium, Molybdenum, Selenium and Tellurium confirms that the United States’ degree of import dependence for Copper has grown drastically since the end of the Cold War:

    Copper_dependence                                                                                        Source: USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries

    This needn’t be.  As we have previously pointed out, with our own reserves and at mining projects ready to come online, the U.S. would not only be able to become self-sufficient with regards to meeting Copper needs, but could even position itself to be a Copper net exporter.  In the process, the U.S. would also provide our domestic manufacturers with stable access to its co-products, which are some of the key tech metals we’ve come to rely upon to drive 21st Century innovation.

    We will review our nation’s import dependence numbers for some of the other Gateway Metals in separate posts, but a look at Copper alone makes clear that it is time for a new, more comprehensive approach to mineral resource policy.

  • Through The Gateway – We Have the Reserves, So Why Aren’t We A Copper Net Exporter?

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken you on a journey “Through the Gateway.” We have looked at some of the key properties and supply and demand picture for Copper, as well as Copper’s co-products Tellurium, Selenium, Rhenium and Molybdenum.* It has become abundantly clear that Copper is a critical mineral, not just as a stand-alone traditional mainstay metal, but also as a gateway to the (mostly) rare tech metals it [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Molybdenum – “The Most Important Element You Have Never Heard Of?”

    A writer for Gizmodo has dubbed it the “most important element you have never heard of.”  Writes Esther Inglis-Arkell: “Molybdenum, with its 42 protons and 54 neutrons, sits right in the middle of the periodic table being completely ignored. It’s not useless. (…) It just doesn’t have that indefinable sexiness about it.” Inglis-Arkell explains Molybdenum’s biochemical relevance: Taken [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Rhenium – Rare and Sexy?

    It has helped make airline travel affordable. It helps keep us safe. And it may just be sexier than Salma Hayek – at least in the eyes of one observer.  We’re talking about Rhenium, yet another metal brought to us largely courtesy of Copper refinement.  A silvery white, metallic element, Rhenium, according to USGS, has “an extremely high [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Selenium – More Than Just a Dietary Supplement

    Chances are, you’ve heard of Selenium.  As a trace element, it is an essential mineral found in small amounts in the body, with antioxidant properties. It is also a much-used suite of tools to automate web browsers across many platforms — which is why weeding out our news alerts for stories relevant to ARPN followers can be time-consuming. [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Tellurium – A Rare Metal With Abundant Demand

    It may not have felt like it, but spring is here, and love is in the air (not just according to us, but also according to science). We’re here to help – and thought we’d share this gem of a pick-up line (available on T-shirts online): “You must be made of Copper and Tellurium, because you [...]
  • Through the Gateway: The Copper Gap That Needn’t Be

    Lately, web searches for “Copper” have seemed to turn up stories about the metal’s woes on the global commodity market on a daily basis.  Like many of its hard-rock commodity peers, Copper has seen its price decline over the past five years. However, there is good reason to believe that the self-corrective nature of commodity [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Copper – Gateway to Renewable Energy

    Whatever your views on global climate change – there is no denying that we find ourselves in the midst of a green energy transition.  As David Sandalow, former under secretary of energy and assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), notes in the New York Times this week, “[s]olar power is [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Copper – Far More Than Your “Old School” Industrial Metal

    We’re kicking off our online informational campaign on Gateway Metals and their Co-products by taking a closer look at one of the most well-known industrial mainstay metals – Copper. Lately, “old school” Copper – long acknowledged as an indispensable building block of the industrial age — has been undergoing turbulent times on the global commodity [...]