American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Sustainable Sourcing to Support Green Energy Shift – A Look at Copper

    Followers of ARPN will know that Copper is more than just an old school mainstay industrial metal.   We’ve long touted its versatility, stemming from its traditional uses, new applications and Gateway Metal status. Courtesy of the ongoing materials science revolution, scientists are constantly discovering new uses – with the latest case in point being Copper used in OLED technology to lower the cost to light up TVs and smart phones.

    Perhaps more importantly in light of the current debate over a shift towards renewable energy, Copper is also one of the key building blocks of our green energy future.

    In that, however, as we have previously argued, lies an inherent irony: Proponents of a green energy shift for the United States tend to vehemently oppose the domestic development of the very metals and minerals that make said shift possible.  However, as ARPN expert Ned Mamula recently indicated, that needn’t be the case.

    Advances in technology harnessed by the modern mining industry make it possible to restore a balance between mining and environmental protection – a position recently outlined by Fleming Voetman, VP for Public Affairs at the International Copper Association.

    In a piece for GreenBiz, Voetman outlines how “[i]ndustries are responding by recognizing their responsibility and trying to meet the increased expectations of consumers, society and governments,” and notes several positive trends that are currently underway.   These range from consumer electronics companies like Ericsson and mining companies like Rio Tinto overhauling their supply chain policies to ensure suppliers conform to certain environmental and social standards, to companies like consumer electronics maker Phillips and mining company Teck supporting local communities.

    Concludes Voetman: 

    “As the demand for copper and other materials necessary for the development of a low carbon society increases, the importance of these responsible sourcing actions grows. Responsible sourcing is a way of extending the benefits of this demand in materials to local communities.

    With global copper demand expected to grow alongside the roll out of energy-efficiency measures and uptake of renewable-energy sources, it is clear that we as an industry collectively need to address societal expectations. The World Bank’s 2017 report on the growing role of minerals and metals states, ‘The shift to low carbon energy will produce global opportunities with respect to a number of minerals,’ and that limiting climate change to a global increase of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius will require radical changes to drive this increased demand.”

    Industry understands that reconciling mining and environmental protection is both necessary and feasible. It is time for our policy makers to realize this, too, and devise a policy framework conducive to the responsible harnessing of the metals and minerals beneath our own soil. 

  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Advances in Metals and Minerals Research May Yield Breakthrough in Quest for Fusion Power

    “Thousands of years ago, humans discovered they could heat rocks to get metal, and it defined an epoch. Later, we refined iron into steel, and it changed the course of civilization. More recently, we turned petroleum into plastic, with all that implies. Whenever we create new materials that push the limits of what’s possible, we send the world down an entirely new path.

    Today, we’re on the verge of a revolution in materials science that will transform the world yet again. Scientists have developed tools that make it possible to design, build, and shape new ‘super materials’ that will eclipse what we once believed were physical limits, create previously unimaginable opportunities, and expand the capabilities of what we already think of as exponential technologies in ways limited only by our imaginations.”

    A few years ago, this is how a Forbes commentator characterized the materials science revolution that is transforming the way we look at metals and minerals.

    It is indeed a revolution, and we’re right in the middle of it. 

    The latest case in point – and feature in our Materials Science Profiles of Progress series – comes to us via the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which has entered into a research partnership with newly-founded company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) to develop a new generation experiments and ultimately power plants based on fusion power – which is hailed as a “potentially an inexhaustible and zero-carbon source of energy.”

    The collaborative project has already attracted funding from an Italian energy company and is looking for additional investors. 

    Explains David Chandler, writing for the MIT News Office:

    “Fusion, the process that powers the sun and stars, involves light elements, such as hydrogen, smashing together to form heavier elements, such as helium — releasing prodigious amounts of energy in the process. This process produces net energy only at extreme temperatures of hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius, too hot for any solid material to withstand. To get around that, fusion researchers use magnetic fields to hold in place the hot plasma — a kind of gaseous soup of subatomic particles — keeping it from coming into contact with any part of the donut-shaped chamber.

    The new effort aims to build a compact device capable of generating 100 million watts, or 100 megawatts (MW), of fusion power. This device will, if all goes according to plan, demonstrate key technical milestones needed to ultimately achieve a full-scale prototype of a fusion power plant that could set the world on a path to low-carbon energy. If widely disseminated, such fusion power plants could meet a substantial fraction of the world’s growing energy needs while drastically curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global climate change.”

    MIT and CFS researchers will seek to develop superconducting electromagnets using magnets made from a newly available superconducting material — a steel tape coated with a compound called yttrium-barium-copper oxide (YBCO) within three years, followed by a design and construction phase for a compact and powerful fusion experiment, called SPARC.

    According to MIT, the project seeks to run concurrently to and complement the findings of an international research collaboration currently underway at the world’s largest fusion experiment site in southern France, called ITER. 

    Researchers are optimistic that a breakthrough is within reach. As Martin Greenwald, deputy director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center says: 

    “Our strategy is to use conservative physics, based on decades of work at MIT and elsewhere. (…) If SPARC does achieve its expected performance, my sense is that’s sort of a Kitty Hawk moment for fusion, by robustly demonstrating net power, in a device that scales to a real power plant.”

    If and when that “Kitty Hawk moment” comes for fusion, yttrium, barium and copper will be key – just as, fun fact, that 1903 Wright Brothers motor was made of copper-aluminum alloy 

    Other Materials Science Profiles of Progress:
    REE Extraction From Coal
    CMI Public-Private Partnership Studies New Ways to Capture Gateway Metals and Critical Co-Products

    Researchers Turn to Bioengineered Bacteria to Recover REEs

    CMI Announces New Partnership to Recover REEs from E-Waste

    CMI Expands Collaborative Research Focus to Include Lithium and Cobalt
    DoE’s New Research Center on Lithium Battery Recycling to Leverage Resources of Private Sector, Universities and National Laboratories

  • “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, [...]
  • Copper and the 2018 Critical Minerals List – Considerations for Resource Policy Reform

    While we’re still waiting for policy makers and other stakeholders to take further action, in 2018 an important step was taken to set the stage for mineral resource policy reform with the release of the Department of Interior’s List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy. Throughout the drafting stage [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • “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 [...]