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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 and subsequent commenting phase, ARPN had lamented the omission of Copper and several other gateway metals from the list.

    Citing ARPN’s Dan McGroarty, Earth Magazine contributor Veronica Tuazon zeroes in on this omission in a recent piece for the American Geosciences Institute’s monthly publication.

    “Copper is essential in electrical wiring and transportation and is playing an increasingly large role in alternative energy, as it is a crucial component in wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles, which require four times as much copper as conventional gas vehicles. But it is also the gateway to several elements on the critical list that are produced as a byproduct of copper mining, as Daniel McGroarty of the American Resources Policy Network, a virtual think tank focused on resource development, pointed out in a series of comments submitted about the DOI’s draft critical minerals list. He also noted that zinc, nickel and lead should be included on the list for the same reason. McGroarty argued that copper is of the highest priority because it ‘is the practical access point to at least four minerals on the DOI List,’ referring to cobalt, rhenium, tellurium and, potentially, the rare earths.”

    Tuazon points out that while USGS, which worked with DoI to put together the list of 35, acknowledged the “co-production issue,” Copper was excluded from the list because the risk of supply disruptions for Copper was considered “very low,” according to Steven Fortier, director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center.

    However, says Tuazon:

    “[W]ith rapid technological advancement and growth, what actually is and isn’t critical changes over time and often eludes simple categorizations. Or as McGroarty puts it, ‘as technology changes, what was once considered minor can have major impacts.’ For example, there was virtually no demand for strontium in the United States before the 1960s, when it was suddenly needed in relatively large quantities to reduce radiation emitted by early televisions.”

    While the United States’ net import reliance for copper may currently be pegged at 34 percent it should be noted that we also have a 600,000 MT copper gap each year – the gap between what we consume and what we produce.

    Against the backdrop of Copper’s growing list of applications and increased usage in one of the key growth markets – EV battery technology (as visualized here) – analysts anticipate Copper consumption to greatly “outstrip supply as it is slated to increase more than six times.”

    On a global scale, with over 200 currently-operating Copper mines slated to reach the end of their production cycle before 2035, CRU analyst Hamish Sampson estimated in the spring of 2018 that “unless new investments arise, existing copper mine production will drop from 20 million tonnes to below 12 million tonnes by 2034, leading to a supply shortfall of more than 15 million tonnes.”

    Sampson argued that only if “every single copper project currently in development or being studied for feasibility is brought online before then, including most discoveries that have not yet reached the evaluation stage, the market could meet projected demand.”

    With a lack of mega-projects coming on stream before the mid-2020s and global production for Copper expected to peak by the second half of 2019 one thing is clear: Whether or not Copper (and its fellow gateway metals) is excluded from the list of 35 critical minerals — It cannot be excluded from policy considerations in 2019.

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  • 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 [...]
  • “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 [...]

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