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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Critical Minerals Alaska – Rhenium Riches in Alaska Could Help Alleviate Supply Issues

    The BBC has dubbed Rhenium — another metal included in the Department of the Interior’s Final List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy — a “super element” with standout properties that can be likened to “alien technology.”

    Thus, it comes as no surprise that Shane Lasley, writing for North of 60 Mining News, has included Rhenium in his feature series “Critical Minerals Alaska.” 

    Citing Rhenium’s high resistance to both heat and wear, which makes it a “vital element in superalloys,” Lasley says it’s these properties coupled with extreme scarcity that “helps boost it onto the list of 35.

    After outlining the demand scenario for Rhenium based on USGS figures, Lasley zeroes in on the supply side.  Porphyry Copper-Molybdenum deposits, from which most Rhenium is derived, tend to be low in concentration, but the “large tonnage mined from this type of deposit makes it possible to recover economically viable quantities of the critical mineral.”

    According to Lasley, the Pebble deposit in Alaska holds large amounts of Rhenium and could not only supply significant quantities of Rhenium, but also be “indicative of Alaska’s larger potential for this super alloy metal.”  He writes:

    “Calculations completed in 2011 estimates the measured and indicated resource contains roughly 0.45 g/t rhenium, which equates to around 2.9 million kilograms, or roughly US$6.4 billion, of the critical superalloy metal.

    This is enough rhenium to supply the world’s needs for more than four decades at 2017 consumption levels and does not account for the rhenium contained in the 4.45 billion metric tons of inferred resource outlined at Pebble.”

    This, according to USGS, “suggests that there is the potential for significant rhenium resources in undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in Alaska” – good news, given that the U.S. currently imports 80% of the rhenium it requires each year.

    As followers of ARPN know, turning that potential into actual production — in the case of rhenium and its fellow “criticals” — will take a policy framework that rewards the risks inherent in resource development.

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  • Squaring the Circle – The Circular Economy, Urban Mining and Mineral Resource Policy

    As Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission for energy policy outlined earlier this month in a video clip, pursuing the vision of a closed-loop circular economy is one of the core tenets of EU resource policy.

    The concept of a circular economy — a system which thrives on sustainability and focuses mainly on refining design production and recycling to ensure that little to no waste results — is not new, but with technological advances and against the backdrop of an increasingly interconnected world has gained traction in recent years.

    In an effort to explore the application of the concept to the mineral resource sector, Chris Lo, writing for Mining-Technology.com, asked earlier this year:

    “How does a global society, one that is as dependent as ever on key industrial metals to feed into the production of basic products and high-tech gadgets, begin to square this circle?” One piece of the puzzle, he pointed out, lies in the “opposite end of the supply chain to the exploration and production activities that occupy the mining sector.”

    He writes:

    “More extensive recycling of waste metal could bring incredible sustainability benefits, from saving energy and water to avoiding excessive environmental impacts from primary production.” Thankfully, many metals and minerals lend themselves to supporting the concept of a circular economy in light of their properties.  Copper, for example, can be recycled infinitely without losing any of its qualities (for a visual example, see this infographic on Copper’s contribution to Europe’s Circular Economy).

    As we have previously outlined, urban mining, the process of “reclaiming resources from products, buildings and waste” which are often “consumed and disposed of in urban areas, transforming cities into resource ‘mines’ which could be sourced for secondary resources to be reintegrated back into the supply chain” is increasingly becoming an important component of comprehensive mineral resource policy.

    However, while in the long-run, a closed-loop circular economy may be feasible, we are nowhere near that point.

    Says Lo:

    “In a perfect world, society’s consumption of mining products would be a closed loop, with all metals recycled into new products and the mining industry stepping in to extract new commodities to make up for metal dissipation and demand growth. Ours is far from a perfect world, however, and such a comprehensive recycling system – if it is even technically feasible – is a long way off.”Indeed, recovering tech and precious metals from consumer electronics remains fraught with challenges.  Meanwhile, research to improve mining processing techniques and recovery and reclamation of materials are well underway.

    We pointed to two examples last year:

    “Researchers at the International Islamic University Malaysia published their findings on the development of a new way to ‘extract the lithium and the cobalt that make up the bulk of the metal components of [rechargeable] batteries.’

    Closer to home — in the U.S., that is — there is the current collaboration between the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) and Rio Tinto, one strand of which is exploring better methods of extracting critical metals from eWaste.”

    Other promising research efforts are underway in research hubs all over the world. Progress on various fronts not withstanding, however, we stand by our conclusion from last year:

    “Urban mining will by no means obviate the need for traditional mining and is as such not a panacea for supply woes.  With innovations in the field and concerted efforts to not only improve extraction technologies, but to also develop products and materials in ways that lend themselves to easier reclamation of metals, it does, however, represent a viable opportunity to alleviate pressures – and as such deserves to be factored into any comprehensive mineral resource strategy.”

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  • “Consumption” Missing Element in Discussion over Mineral Resource Development

    You need “stuff” to make “stuff.”  It’s a simple concept, but one that is all too often forgotten. As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty wrote in a 2015 Forbes op-ed coauthored with then-CEO of mining advisory firm Behre Dolbear Karr McCurdy: “[A]s a precursor to sound policy, the nation needs a change in mind-set: It’s time to [...]
  • Copper – Key Building Block of Our (Green Energy) Future

    Sometimes the title says it all: “Copper and cars: Boom goes beyond electric vehicles,” writes Mining.com contributor Frik Els. And indeed, while there is some uncertainty in light of the specter of a trade war looming between the United States and China, triggering a market pullback, the longer term outlook for Copper remains “rosy” precisely [...]
  • Critical Mineral List Finalized – Now Comes the Hard Part

    “Identifying which minerals are ‘critical’ is the easy part. Working out what to do about them is going to be much harder.”  – That’s the conclusion Reuters columnist Andy Home draws in his recent piece on the current Administration’s efforts to develop a strategy to reduce import reliance for metals considered “critical to the economic and [...]
  • The Daily Caller: DOI Critical Minerals List Highlights United States’ Over-Reliance on Foreign Mineral Resources

    Heavily quoting from ARPN’s statement on the issue, The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch earlier this month reported on the Department of the Interior’s finalized list of minerals deemed critical for U.S. national security. Writes Bastasch: “President Donald Trump’s administration’s release of a list of 35 critical minerals highlights just how reliant the U.S. is on [...]
  • Green Energy Revolution Puts Copper in the Driver’s Seat

    At ARPN, we have long touted Copper’s versatility – its traditional uses, new applications and Gateway Metal status – but for those who still struggle to see more in Copper than your old school industrial metal, some visual help has arrived in the form of yet another impressive infographic from Visual Capitalist. The comprehensive infographic [...]
  • Stakeholders and Experts Weigh in on DOI’s Finalized Critical Minerals List 

    Last week, the Department of the Interior released its finalized Critical Mineral list. In spite of calls to include various additional metals and minerals (see ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty’s public comments on the issue here) DOI decided to stick with its pool of 35 minerals deemed critical from a national security perspective. “With the list [...]
  • ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty Comments on DOI’s Release of Final Critical Minerals List

    The Department of the Interior released its final list of Critical Minerals today. The following is ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty’s statement on the list: “DOI issued its final list of Critical Minerals, unchanged at 35.  What we see is the degree of US dependency – the US is 100% import-dependent for 14 of the 35 [...]
  • Copper Gap Looms as Demand for EV Tech Continues to Surge

    While just a few short years ago, Rare Earth Element coverage dominated non-fuel mineral resource news cycles, it is the metals and minerals that fuel electric vehicle and battery technology that are making headlines these days. Here, the spotlight has been on Cobalt, Lithium, and, to a lesser extent, Nickel and associated supply and demand [...]

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