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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Cobalt – First Steps Towards Reducing Mineral Resource Dependencies?

    recent piece for InvestorIntel zeroes in on a metal which, due to its growing use in battery technology, coupled with a challenging supply scenario is increasingly afforded “critical mineral” status – Cobalt.

    A co-product of Nickel and Copper, the metal’s recent history, as author Lara Smith argues, has been “chaotic.” ARPN agrees that about sums it up. Criticism regarding the production conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — from which 62 percent of global refined Cobalt is sourced — mounted in 2016.  93 percent of the Cobalt refined in China – the world’s biggest Cobalt consumer – originates in the DRC, which, at 3,400,000 metric tons, is also home to the world’s largest Cobalt reserves.  Production conditions in the DRC, which in some cases include child labor and poor environmental standards, have lead battery makers to search for Cobalt sources outside the African country.

    Smith highlights Elon Musk’s ambitious claim that Tesla will “produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year by 2018” and that the Cobalt used “will be sourced exclusively in North America.”

    And indeed, it looks like there is a flurry of activity in this area:

    A Nickel-Copper mine in Michigan recently ramped up production of Cobalt-bearing nickel concentrate (we highlighted ithere), but to date our domestic manufacturers remain import dependent for 75% of the Cobalt they consume.  Smith features a new Cobalt development project – involving “a high-grade and primary cobalt deposit” in Idaho in her post — which may decrease this number going forward. Cobalt co-product production may furthermore be feasible in a number of other states, including Alaska, California, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

    As ARPN expert panelist and Benchmark Minerals Managing Director Simon Moores, who has called Cobalt the “most critical of the battery raw materials,” points out, demand for the metal is growing:

    “With a lithium ion battery production surge well under way – and Benchmark recently revising its megafactories tracker to now 14 that are under construction ranging from 3-35 GWh capacity – lithium ion battery demand for cobalt is set to exceed 100,000 tpa by 2020.”

    In light of these numbers, the above-referenced projects are welcome developments that will help ease our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources -– but they should ultimately be part of a comprehensive mineral resource strategy our country has been sorely lacking.

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  • China’s REE Stranglehold Comes Back Into Focus

    If the first few weeks with a new administration at the helm in Washington, DC are any indication, we will see more efforts to make sweeping changes in federal policy in the coming weeks.  One area where President Donald Trump promised changes on the campaign trail is trade – and specifically relations with China.

    In a new piece for Fox News, Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News, John Moody zeroes in on trade relations with China, and raises the specter of the President and his administration becoming the victim of exactly the job-exporting policies he railed against and face the very real possibility that China could cut off U.S. access to 17 rare materials vital to our advanced aircraft and guided missile systems.”

    Followers of ARPN will know that the 17 rare materials in question are the so-called “Rare Earths,” (REEs), which are essential components of 21st Century technology, with applications ranging from personal gadgets to clean energy technology, and national defense, to name but a few.   Says Moody:

    “For precisely the reasons Candidate Trump cited for the decline of American manufacturing and the loss of U.S. jobs, China is now in a position to cut off our supply of processed rare earth elements if it feels Trump is pushing too hard on trade and economic issues—or anything else.”

    Defense and resource analyst Jeff Green, who is also a member of the American Resources panel of experts, confirms China’s “Trump card,” to which the piece’s title cleverly alludes:

    “Absolutely, China could cut off the supply. (…) Processing rare earths is the end of the hose. China controls the spigot the hose is attached to.”

    China being the main global producer of REEs, has long held a near-total supply monopoly for REEs, which it has not shied away from exploiting for political gain. For a few short years, a North American mining company sourced REEs domestically, thereby reducing our import reliance for REEs (with the lowest degree of net import reliance pegged at 63% in 2013).  For a number of reasons, however, the company went bankrupt in 2015, bringing our import reliance back up to 100%, with the bulk of our domestic supply still coming from China.

    While there is – at least in the short term – no silver bullet to this predicament, the case of REE dependence goes to show that resource policy does not occur in a vacuum, and is intrinsically intertwined with trade, economics and other policy areas. It also underscores the need to finally devise policies that help reduce our mineral resource dependencies by creating a framework allowing for the responsible development of our nation’s vast mineral and metal riches.

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  • Interview: AEMA’s Laura Skaer – The Mining Industry’s Challenges and a Look Ahead

    For the last few months, politics has sucked up much of the oxygen in Washington, DC and around the country.  With the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States behind us, many of us are hopeful that the time has come to finally shift the focus away from politics toward policy. Against the backdrop [...]
  • 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: Rhodium – Not Just Another Platinum Group Metal

    A rare, silvery white, hard and corrosion-resistant metal, Rhodium is not only one of Palladium’s fellow members of the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs); it, too, happens to be a Nickel co-product.  And, as is the case with Palladium, one of Rhodium’s main uses is in catalytic converters to reduce automobile emissions, as well as in industrial catalysts. Alloyed with [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Nickel – “The Metal that Brought You Cheap Flights”

    “It made the age of cheap foreign holidays possible, and for years it was what made margarine spreadable. Nickel may not be the flashiest metal but modern life would be very different without it.”  We couldn’t have introduced our next Gateway Metal any better than the BBC did in a feature story on Nickel and [...]
  • Event: Benchmark Minerals World Tour Comes to Washington DC

    If you are based out of Washington, DC or happen to be in town on October 21, here’s an event you should not miss: Our friends at Benchmark Minerals, a U.K.-based price data collection and assessment company specializing in the lithium ion battery supply chain, are taking their Benchmark World Tour to Washington, DC.   ARPN expert and Benchmark [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Of Pokémon and Co-Products – A Look at Gallium

    All over the world, people are wandering through the streets staring at their smartphones. Whether you’re part of the PokémonGo phenomenon that has taken the world by storm, or whether you can only shake your head, you don’t only have Nintendo to thank for.    One of the Co-Product Metals we’re focusing on this week as part of [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Aluminum Alloys – Versatility On Steroids

    Last year, researchers developed a material “that’s as strong and light as titanium, another expensive material, but at just a tenth of the cost.” They were able to achieve this feat by tweaking Aluminum’s alloying properties at the nano level. Aluminum’s properties as a stand-alone metal already make it one of the most versatile materials in engineering and [...]
  • Independence Day – A Time To Celebrate Our Freedom, Yet Be Mindful of Growing Dependencies

    It’s that time of the year again. We’re filling our shopping carts with food and drinks, making sure we have enough gas for the grill, and buying some fireworks. The 4th of July, and with that, Independence Day, has arrived. But our country’s 240th birthday is more than a good reason to throw a barbecue in honor [...]

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