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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: CMI Public-Private Partnership Studies New Ways to Capture Gateway Metals and Critical Co-Products

    As part of our latest feature series “Materials Science Profiles of Progress,” in the context of which we highlight positive steps towards the development of the comprehensive mineral resource strategy our country is so sorely lacking, we’re zeroing in on a promising public private partnership that recently celebrated its first birthday.

    In October of last year, the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI)  announced it would join forces with global mining and minerals company Rio Tinto to study new ways to capture Gateway Metals and Co-products that are increasingly becoming indispensable in clean power manufacturing.

    As Ames Lab described the project last year,

    “the new initiative aims to ensure that the United States fully leverages domestic mineral and metal resources necessary for global leadership in clean energy manufacturing.

    The Rio Tinto-CMI research partnership will combine Rio Tinto’s operational expertise with CMI’s research capabilities, materials science expertise and computing power.  Focused on the efficient extraction of critical materials from the copper smelting process, the research will have three core work-streams:  

    1.            Improving recovery rates of critical minerals and metals (rhenium, selenium, tellurium, scandium, etc.) from samples sourced from Rio Tinto’s operating Kennecott Copper Mine in Utah and the Resolution Copper project currently under regulatory review and permitting in Arizona.

    2.            Exploring potential for increasing recovery rates of rare minerals and metals through processing waste tailings.

    3.            Examining process improvements that would facilitate the blending of processed electronic waste (‘e-waste’) with copper concentrates to substantially increase the recovery of valuable metals such as gold, copper, silver, platinum, lithium and rare earths present in spent cellphones, computers and solar panels.”

    CMI’s collaborations with private sector companies have already proven to be valuable tools in the effort to alleviate supply risks for critical raw materials:

    According to a GAO report released last year, as of May 1, 2016 CMI “research projects had already resulted in 42 invention disclosures, 17 patent applications, and 1 licensed technology.” Moreover, two recent CMI technologies developed in the context of ongoing public-private partnerships have been named 2017 R&D 100 Award finalists. The award is presented annually “to the top 100 scientific innovations as selected by independent panel of more than 50 judges representing R&D leaders in a variety of fields.”

    As those who have followed ARPN’s “Through the Gateway” informational campaign will know, while demand for Co-Product Metals is increasing, the United States not only has a significant degree of import dependency for many of them, but also for the respective Gateway Metal – all of which has implications for both the United States’ competitiveness and national security.

    Against this backdrop, CMI’s research partnership with Rio Tinto is a promising endeavor, tying into the research hub’s overall mandate to address our nation’s critical mineral needs.

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  • ARPN’s McGroarty for Investor’s Business Daily: U.S. Mineral Resource Dependence a “Clear and Present Danger”

    Against the backdrop of growing threats to U.S. security – recent flash points involve Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – a new Presidential Executive Order “On Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States,” zeroes in on defense readiness. The E.O. requires heads from various cabinet departments to submit to the President policy recommendations for strengthening the U.S. defense industrial base.

    The problem, as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty outlines in a new commentary for Investors Business Daily, runs far deeper than scenarios in which “there is only one U.S. company that can repair submarine propellers – (…) Our metals and minerals dependency on foreign sources of supply is great and growing.”

    ARPN followers are familiar with the overall picture: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, we are 100% reliant on foreign imports for 20 metals and minerals. For another 50, we are more than 50% import dependent – with China being a leading supplier for 28 of the 50. 

    McGroarty points to fused aluminum oxide to underscore the severity of the situation, arguing that “there’s nothing quite like a raw material shortage to bring the lengthiest supply chain to a standstill:” 

    While we are more than 75% import dependent for our annual domestic fused aluminum oxide supply, according to USGS, defense-grade aluminum fused oxide is even harder to come by, leaving our import dependency for this material at 100%, with the world’ leading providers being China and Venezuela – none of which are the poster children of reliable trading partners. 

    Says McGroarty:

    “In announcing the Executive Order, Navarro noted that it ‘does not silo defense, the economy and trade and the workforce,’ but embraces ‘all the interconnections between a strong manufacturing base, a strong industrial base, a strong workforce … that strengthen our tax base which … allows us to buy the material and weapons.’

    A fine and expansive statement, to which we should make a one-word amendment: Instead of buying the strategic materials used in U.S. weapons platforms, whenever we can, we should be mining that material here at home.

    And that requires reversing the slide that has seen the U.S.’s share of global mining exploration investment in steady decline the past two decades, even as the length of the federal permitting process has doubled. Here, we need not wait for the President’s Defense Industrial Base report; we should press for passage of critical minerals legislation now before the Congress, with meaningful permitting reform.”

    McGroarty has additional suggestions as to what can be done to foster a policy environment conducive to harnessing our nation’s arguably vast mineral potential, and calls for the realization of the strategic importance of mainstay metals like Copper, which in the tech metal era, serve as “Gateway metals” to other critical minerals. 

    He concludes:

     “Defense readiness has long been a key bulwark of American strength — and worrying about it has an equally lengthy pedigree. In his oft-quoted farewell address, in a largely overlooked passage, President Dwight Eisenhower warned: ‘We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.’ That was 1961, at the height of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War.

    In 2017, with threats emanating from Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang and Tehran, this is one instance where it would pay for America to Be Like Ike.” 

    The time for a strategic overhaul of our mineral resource policy is now. 

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  • Happy Independence Day! We’re Free, Yet So Dependent

    Happy Birthday, America! Another trip around the sun, and we’re back on the eve of the 4th of July gearing up for parades, barbecues and fireworks in honor of the men and women who have fought, and continue to safeguard our freedom today. Last year, we used this opportunity to point out that while we cherish [...]
  • Advances in Materials Science Warrant Rethink in Resource Policy

    We appreciate them for their traditional applications, but metals like Copper and Tin are far more than your mainstay materials.  We discussed their Gateway Metal status here, but it’s not just the fact that their development yields access to some of the most sought-after tech metals that makes them so indispensible – it’s advances in materials [...]
  • Rhenium: “Alien Technology” Underscores Importance of Gateway Metals and Co-Products

    At ARPN, we have consistently highlighted the importance of Gateway Metals, which are materials that are not only critical to manufacturing and national security in their own right, but also “unlock” tech metals increasingly important to innovation and technological development. With advancements in materials science, these co-products, many of which have unique properties lending themselves [...]
  • EPA Settlement on Pebble Deposit Positive Development for Due Process Advocates

    A few years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a splash when it took unprecedented early action in an effort to derail the development of one of the largest domestic deposits of key strategic mineral resources (Copper, Molybdenum, Gold, Silver and Rhenium) – the so-called Pebble Deposit in Southwestern Alaska.  In spite of the fact [...]
  • As Resource Dependence Deepens, Miners Pivot Back to U.S. For Exploration

    Against the backdrop of market prices recovering and supply woes looming, mining companies are expected to increase spending on exploration for the first time in five years, reports news agency Reuters. In what may spell good news for the United States, analysts anticipate the biggest expenditure increases to occur in the United States, Canada and Australia, all [...]
  • McGroarty on Critical Minerals: “It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Infrastructure”

    The New Year is now a little over a week old and the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States is just around the corner.  And while some are still dwelling on 2016 (we offered our post mortem at the end of the year), the time has come to look at what’s in store. One of [...]
  • 2016 – A Mixed Bag for Mineral Resource Policy

    It’s that time of the year again.  And as people are gearing up for the New Year, we are taking the opportunity to take stock of the last twelve months, and want to highlight a few select notable developments of relevance to ARPN followers. From a mineral resource policy perspective, we saw some positive developments [...]
  • Through the Gateway: A Scholarly Look

    Over the course of the past few months, we have featured two classes of metals and minerals, which we believe deserve more attention than they are currently being awarded.  Expanding on the findings of our 2012 “Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology” report, in which we focused on a group of five “Gateway” metals which [...]

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