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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Europe Forges Ahead With Battery Gigafactory Buildout As U.S. Still Struggles to Get Off Starting Block

    The current coronavirus pandemic may have thrown a wrench into the gears of many industries, but — against the backdrop of skyrocketing materials supply needs in the context of the green energy transition — Europe continues to forge ahead with the buildout of its large-scale battery gigafactory capacity. 

    According to London-based Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, whose analysts forecast that at least European 16 plants will be operational by 2030, there have been “some issues with cell producers in Europe struggling to ramp cell production in new facilities to meet demand, but in terms of construction timelines the plants to date have remained on schedule.” 

    With the World Bank forecasting that production of metals and minerals like graphite, lithium and cobalt will have to increase by nearly 500 percent by 2050 to meet global demand for renewable energy technology, this development comes as no surprise.  Growing mineral resource pressures in the context of the low-carbon transition are also prompting global miners to shift their traditional focus, as evidenced most recently by Rio Tinto’s decision to invest almost $200 to move to the next development stage of the lithium-borate Jadar project in Serbia.

    While China continues to hold the pole position as the world’s largest producer of lithium ion batteries, a continuation of the European gigafactory buildout at the above-referenced pace would put Europe at a total annual production capacity of 446 GWh and place the region in second place.  It would also perpetuate the bystander status into which the United States has maneuvered itself in the context of the global battery arms race.

    Earlier this year, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s managing director and member of the ARPN panel of experts Simon Moores argued that  

    “[i]n February 2019, there were 70 battery megafactories in the pipeline of which 46 are in China and 5 in the USA. Today there are 136 of these super-sized electric vehicle battery plants in operation or being planned: 101 in China and 8 in the USA. China is building a battery gigafactory (megafactory) at the rate of one every week; the USA at one every four months. In 2019, China produced 72% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries whereas the USA only 9%.”

    Testifying before the U.S. Senate in June of this year, Moores renewed his call for decisive U.S. action by invoking the U.S.’s successful creation of a widespread semiconductor industry in the 1980s:

    “The lead that the USA built in semiconductors and computing power due to companies like Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel Corporation has sustained the USA’s dominance in global computing for over 5 decades.

    Likewise, those who invest in battery capacity and supply chains today are likely to dominate this industry for generations to come.

    It is not too late for the US but action is needed now.”

    While U.S. policymakers are increasingly aware of the urgency of our nation’s critical mineral needs — a case in point being the formation of a bipartisan Critical Materials Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives late last month) — political calculations in a watershed election year won’t make it easy for reform-minded lawmakers to chance the status quo. 

    However, a look at Europe’s forging ahead with its gigafactory buildout should serve as a reminder that the rest of the world won’t wait for us.

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  • Demand for Certain Metals and Minerals to Increase by Nearly 500%, According to New World Bank Study

    At ARPN, we have long argued that the current push towards a lower-carbon future is not possible without mining, as green energy technology relies heavily on a score of critical metals and minerals.

    The World Bank’s latest report, entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” published earlier this week in the context of the global lender’s “Climate-Smart Mining” initiative, confirms this notion, and estimates that production of metals and minerals like graphite, lithium and cobalt will have to increase by nearly 500 percent by 2050 to meet global demand for renewable energy technology.  To achieve the transition to a below 2°C pathway as outlined by the Paris Agreement, the deployment of wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage will require more than three billion tons of minerals and metals.

    Interestingly, the report finds that while shifting to clean energy technology will be mineral-intensive, the carbon footprint of their production “will account for only 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by fossil fuel technologies.” While recycling and re-use of metals and minerals will play an important role in increasing mineral demand, even drastic increases in this category will not suffice to meet demand for renewable energy technology and energy storage.

    Published against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic, which, according to World Bank Global Director for Energy and Extractive Industries and Regional Director for Infrastructure in Africa, Riccardo Puliti, “could represent an additional risk to sustainable mining,” the report, and the Climate-Smart Initiative as a whole, seek to offer a “data-driven tool for understanding how this shift will impact future mineral demand.”  

    As economies — particularly in developing nations, many of which are home to the critical materials used in battery technology — start to reopen, the initiative seeks to help these nations “to mine those commodities in a sustainable manner to avert major ecological damage.”

    The World Bank’s Climate Smart Mining initiative is one facet of approaches taken to sustainably green our future, but, as we recently outlined, it does not end here. In an effort to offset some of the carbon costs of resource development, mining companies have started to incorporate renewable power sources into their operations.  Some recent examples include:

    • Rio Tinto looking at incorporating renewables and battery storage into its main mining sites in Australia, for example as part of its $1 billion upgrade for its Pilbara ore project

    • Fortescue Metals having partnered with a power utility to – with the backing of the Australian federal government – help power its Pilbara operations with solar energy and battery storage

    • Gold Fields planning to predominantly operate its Agnew gold mine in Western Australia (WA) using renewable energy by partnering with a global energy group and investing in an energy micro grid combining wind, solar, gas and battery storage

    • Antofagasta partnering with a utility company to turn its Zaldívar mine into the first 100% renewable energy-powered Chilean mine with a mix of hydro, solar and wind power

    • Rio Tinto looking to reduce its carbon footprint at its Kennecott Utah copper mine by as much as 65% through the purchase of renewable energy certificates 

    As challenging as the global post-COVID-19 environment will be, it also holds opportunity.  As Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Director of the Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines told committee members during testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) last fall:

    “The future energy system will be far more mineral and metal-intensive than it is today. Many of these advanced technologies require minerals and metals with particular properties that have few to no current substitutes.

    The opportunity for the mining industry is tremendous. An industry that has experienced enormous public pressure and critique, accompanied by offshoring production overseas, can now evolve into one fundamental to supporting a shift to a low-carbon and sustainable energy system based on domestic natural resources.”

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  • ARPN’s McGroarty for The Economic Standard: Red Swan – a Leaked 2010 Cable on Critical Infrastructure/Key Resource Vulnerabilities Provided Warning Signs We Failed To Act On

    In a new piece for The Economic Standard, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues that while the “intellectual shrug” of “who could have seen this coming” tends to be a common reaction to our new normal of sheltering in place and social distancing, there were warning signs for a coming crisis we failed to recognize for what they were, and act [...]
  • U.S. To Pursue National Electric Vehicle Supply Chain

    ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Simon Moores must have struck a nerve when he called the U.S. a “bystander” in the current battery arms race during a recent Congressional hearing. His message  —  “Those who control these critical raw materials and those who possess the manufacturing and processing know how, will [...]
  • U.S. Currently Bystander in Global Battery Arms Race, ARPN Expert Tells U.S. Senate Committee

    A key global player, the United States is not used to being a bystander. Yet this is exactly what is currently happening, says Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Managing Director Simon Moores, addressing the full U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this morning. Delivering his testimony on the outlook for energy and minerals market in [...]
  • Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

    Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – “new kids on the block” arrive in groups. Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, [...]
  • Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s World Tour Returns to U.S. this May

    Our friends from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence – formidable experts when it comes to battery tech and the mineral resources driving it – are returning to the U.S. in May for another round of their World Tour. This year’s tour will “focus on the supply chains for the next generation of battery technologies,” and seek to [...]
  • Automakers Pledge to Uphold Ethical and Socially Responsible Standards in Materials Sourcing. Where Will the Metals and Minerals Come From?

    Late last month, international automakers made headlines when pledging “to uphold ethical and socially responsible standards in their purchases of minerals for an expected boom in electric vehicle production.” As Reuters reported, a group of 10 car manufacturers have formed an initiative to “jointly identify and address ethical, environmental, human and labor rights issues in [...]
  • Moores’ Law: The Rise of Lithium Ion Battery Megafactories and What it Means for Critical Mineral Resource Supply

    Earlier this month, Simon Moores, Managing Director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts testified before the full U.S. Senate Energy Committee on opportunities and risks in the energy storage supply chain.   We’re titling his observations as Moores’ Law — which is his for the taking, given the placement [...]
  • Senate Energy Committee Zeroes in on Energy Storage Revolution – Where Will the Battery Megafactories Get the Minerals and Metals They Need?

    Just last week, we highlighted the surge in EV technology and its implications for mineral resource supply and demand.  A timely subject – as evidenced by the fact that the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy held a “Full Committee Hearing “to Examine Energy Storage Technologies” this week. Simon Moores, Managing Director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence [...]

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