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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Cobalt’s Star Rising Even Further in Light of Breakthrough New Applications?

    Cobalt is a rising star among critical minerals, in large part because of its key role in battery technology.  However, that’s hardly the only reason. The ongoing materials science revolution has produced a new long-term use for Cobalt that may prove to be a technological breakthrough:

    A California-based company has announced that it has found a way to accelerate chip performance using Cobalt instead of more traditional materials used as conducting materials in transistor contacts and interconnects such as Tungsten and Copper.

    Says Dr. Prabu Raja, senior Vice President of Applied Science’s Semiconductor Products Group:

    “Five years ago, Applied anticipated an inflection in the transistor contact and interconnect, and we began developing an alternative materials solution that could take us beyond the 10nm node. (…) Applied brought together its experts in chemistry, physics, engineering and data science to explore the broad portfolio of Applied’s technologies and create a breakthrough Integrated Materials Solution for the industry. As we enter the big data and AI era, there will be more of these inflections, and we are excited to be having earlier and deeper collaborations with our customers to accelerate their roadmaps and enable devices we never dreamed possible.”

    One benefit of using Cobalt over the traditionally used materials is that these were “no longer scalable beyond the 10nm foundry node because their electrical performance has reached physical limits for transistor contacts and local interconnects.” The use of Cobalt removes a bottleneck that prevented the achievement of “full performance potential of FinFET transistors.” 

    According to the company, Cobalt may be “challenging to integrate,” but yields “lower resistance and variability at small dimensions, improved gapfill at very fine dimensions; and improved reliability.”

    The ongoing revolution in materials science – which we have previously characterized as “a rapidly accelerating effort that is unlocking the potential of scores of metals and minerals long known but seldom utilized in our tools and technologies” — represents a paradigm shift for traditional supply and demand scenarios for the raw materials that fuel it.

    This specific new application will not change the supply and demand scenario for Cobalt overnight, but it is another reminder that the continued advance of technology underscores the need for comprehensive policy reform rather than a patchwork of piecemeal approaches.

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  • A “Dangerous Dependence:”  Mineral Resource Security Goes Mainstream

    In recent weeks, we have seen a flurry of articles and commentaries in national publications discussing reforms to address our ever-growing reliance on foreign mineral resources.  The two most recent examples are member of the ARPN expert panel Jeffery A. Green’s piece in Real Clear Defense entitled “Dangerous Dependence on China for Critical Minerals Runs Deep,” and a piece in The Hill by American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark J. Perry scholar entitled “To reduce China’s leverage, rebuild America’s minerals supply chain.”

    Both pieces draw attention to China’s mineral resource dominance and point to current efforts to curb China’s leverage.

    Writes Perry:

    “Imagine a scenario where the U.S. is entirely dependent on a single nation for oil. You can’t. It’s inconceivable. We would never let one nation — much less a sometimes adversarial rival — dominate our supply of a critical resource. Or would we?

    Astoundingly, we have. We are completely import-dependent for 21 mineral commodities, and imports account for more than half of our consumption for 50 critical minerals. Who’s our largest supplier? China.”

    Citing USGS numbers highlighting our dependence on materials sourced from China, Green agrees:

    “We have gifted China robust trade leverage should they chose to use it. In 2010, during a geopolitical spat over disputed waters, China cut its exports of rare earth elements to Japan. China could easily cripple American supply chains and significantly limit our ability to produce advanced radar and weapon systems by limiting or disrupting the supply of any one of these minerals. Allowing a non-allied foreign nation to control such a broad swathe of critical minerals is a significant security threat to the U.S. and its warfighters.”

    The growing awareness of these issues in the mainstream media thanks to experts like Green and others spreading the word is a welcome development. However, whether we succeed in reducing Chinese leverage over our domestic industrial production and national security will depend in large part on how policy makers respond.

    Both authors cite recent legislative language pending in Congress that would go far in streamlining our outdated and duplicative permitting framework for mining projects that has so far hampered responsible domestic resource development.

    But while the U.S. House of Representatives has passed said provisions, the U.S. Senate has already failed to include them in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), once more underscoring that while awareness is growing, meaningful change will still face an uphill battle.

    In Perry’s words:

    “The opportunity to put a halt to our deepening reliance on imports for dozens of critically important minerals is within reach. Let’s ensure we have the robust domestic supply chain to guarantee our military has the supply of materials it needs when it needs them.”

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  • Sweden Tosses Hat Into Ring In Race For Materials Underpinning EV Revolution

    As the race for the metals and minerals driving the electric vehicle revolution heats up, and China continues to jockey for pole position, Sweden is tossing its hat into the ring.  According to recent media reports, the Swedish government has earmarked 10 million kronor ( roughly one million Euros) to explore the option of digging [...]
  • ICYMI – Video and Supporting Documents for AGI Webinar on “Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials”

    Last month, the American Geosciences Institute ran a webinar entitled “Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials.”  Speakers for the event, which discussed “efforts to gather information and develop tools that can be used to ensure a secure national and global supply of mineral resources, and identify and quantifying vulnerabilities in this supply, among others,” [...]
  • Lithium – A Material “Coming of Age” is Case in Point for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    As we have outlined, last month’s executive order on critical minerals could have far-reaching implications for our national security and economic wellbeing.  If you needed a case in point – look no further than Lithium. One of the hottest commodities of the day, Lithium, as ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral [...]
  • AGI to Host Webinar on Critical Minerals

    Mark your calendars – the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) will host a timely webinar on critical mineral issues later this month. The webinar entitled “Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials” will be held on Friday, January 26, 2018, at 11:00am EST, and will “focus on U.S. and European Union (EU) efforts to gather information [...]
  • Member of ARPN Expert Panel Outlines Implications of Executive Order Targeting Critical Minerals

    Amidst the latest political drama, bomb cyclones and button size comparisons which are dominating the news cycle, you may have missed two great pieces of analysis by member of the ARPN panel of experts Jeff Green, president and founder of Washington, DC-based J.A. Green & Company – so we are highlighting them for you: In [...]
  • New Year’s Resolutions for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    If you’re one of nearly half of all Americans, you will have already made a few New Year’s resolutions for 2018.   Among the most popular are personal betterment goals like “losing weight,” and “exercising more.”  While we’re all for making personal resolutions, at ARPN, we’re more concerned with the goals our policy makers are [...]
  • Ned Mamula Joins American Resources Panel of Issue Experts

    We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Ned Mamula, a senior geoscientist with over 30 years of experience in energy and mineral research and resource policy issues, has joined the ARPN Panel of Issue Experts. Currently a scholar with the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, Mr. Mamula has spearheaded resource [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Researchers Turn to Bioengineered Bacteria to Recover REEs

    Followers of ARPN are well aware that we have been calling out policy makers and other stakeholders for their inaction when it comes to working towards the development of a coherent, forward-looking and comprehensive mineral resource strategy – and we frequently point to missed opportunities to work towards this goal. While we stand by our [...]

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