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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 the key buzzwords, particularly if you’re looking for an issue that transcends party lines these days is “infrastructure” – an area where broad consensus on the need for significant overhaul exists.  What is often overlooked, however, is that our infrastructure today comprises of far more than just bridges, roads, and tunnels.  As our very own Daniel McGroarty outlines in a brand new piece for Investor’s Business Daily,

    “[t]oday, our infrastructure extends to the national power grid — currently a patchwork of lines, nodes and often antique switching towers we rely on to move energy to where we need it — to the internet itself, which has a physicality we easily overlook in this Age of the Cloud and Wireless. These systems, marvels that they are, come closer to tin-can-and-string contraptions than the modern version we would build if we began the work today. 

    Threats against our infrastructure are as diverse as they are real, and dealing with them will require a comprehensive approach.  Securing access to Copper, Graphite, Cobalt, Manganese, and Rhenium may not be the first things that come to mind when we think critical infrastructure protection – but they, and many other tech metals and minerals, have to be on our shopping list if we’re serious about a 21st Century infrastructure that is competitive and can withstand threats from the outside and within.

    As followers of ARPN are aware, we are subject to a significant degree of import-dependence for the above referenced materials, as well as for many others.  With there being more to infrastructure than “cement trucks and Jersey Barriers”, it’s time for an approach conducive to unleashing our arguably vast domestic mineral potential.

    Explains McGroarty:

    “It means getting over the pernicious mindset that 2017 America lives in a postindustrial age, a time when Americans are all ‘symbolic analysts,’ tapping away at keyboards, creating wealth from ones-and-zeros, live-blogging streaming video and the like, no longer dependent of transforming real raw materials into things. That messy business has been off-shored to other places, happy to sell us what we need.” 

    This leaves us at the mercy of the rest of the world — and needlessly so. Concludes McGroarty:

    “Word is that the new infrastructure bill will exceed $1 trillion. Shoring up our infrastructure — broadly understood — is essential, and not just for jobs and GDP, but for the stuff modern dreams are made of — everything from the gadgets we use to occupy our time to the high-performance materials that power the weapons platforms that keep us safe.

    If we approach the Great Infrastructure Debate in this spirit, we could do even more than rebuild our roads, bridges and tunnels. We could build the foundation for a new American Century.”

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  • Graphite: At the Core of Your Pencil, 21st Century Technology, and Geopolitical Resource Warfare

    It may be its most well-known use, but Graphite today is at the core of more than just your pencil – it is at the core of 21st Century consumer technology.  Just ask Elon Musk. The Tesla Motors CEO and futurist recently insinuated that the label “Lithium-Ion battery” may actually be a misnomer for the batteries that power our favorite gadgets and, increasingly, also electric vehicles:

    “Our cells should be called Nickel-Graphite, because primarily the cathode is nickel and the anode side is graphite with silicon oxide… [there’s] a little bit of lithium in there, but it’s like the salt on the salad.”

    The bottom line – Graphite is one of the most indispensable mineral resources.

    Graphite’s rise to stardom prompted Washington Post reporter Peter Whoriskey to write a feature story about the Graphite supply chain and the problems associated with Graphite mining.  According to Whoriskey, most of the Graphite contained in Lithium-Ion batteries used by Samsung, LG, GM, Toyota and other consumer companies can ultimately traced back to China, the world’s biggest Graphite producer. Writes Whoriskey:

    “The companies making those products promote the bright futuristic possibilities of the “clean” technology. But virtually all such batteries use graphite, and its cheap production in China, often under lax environmental controls, produces old-fashioned industrial pollution.”

    However, the fact that much of the world’s production of tech metals is concentrated in China has implications beyond the environment.  With much of China’s mining industry consolidated in state-owned industries, resource policy is increasingly becoming an instrument of geopolitical warfare.  As critical minerals expert David Abraham has pointed out elsewhere in the context of China’s ever-tightening grip on rare metals: 

     “If a goal of Beijing is to bolster its green companies by providing cheap, accessible materials to downstream manufacturing, owning a resource company provides a great way to do that. Could Beijing use its ownership stake to decide who can buy which resources and at what price? Yes.”

    From a U.S. perspective, in the case of natural Graphite, this is indeed worrisome, as the United States, according to USGS, currently is 100% import-dependent for its domestic manufacturing needs, with the last U.S. Graphite producer ceasing production in 1991.

    Once again, our deep Graphite dependency problem is largely home-grown.

    While domestic natural Graphite reserves are considered small by international comparison, there are natural Graphite deposits under development in the U.S.. New technologies to turn natural Graphite into high-grade spherical Graphite, which is used by Electric Vehicle (EV) battery technology, are also readily available.

    With stringent environmental standards in place and cleaner, new techniques that minimize the impact on the communities in which the deposit is developed at our disposal, harnessing our domestic Graphite resources would allow us significantly lessen our dependence on foreign supplies and also reduce China’s geopolitical leverage in the 21st Century resource wars.

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  • Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory to Drive Critical Mineral Demand

    The graphite, lithium and cobalt industries are set for major demand surges as Tesla Motors prepares to break ground on its super-battery plant, the Gigafactory, next month. The high-end EV manufacturer is looking to double the world’s battery output as it seeks to bring the production cost of battery packs down in a bid to [...]
  • Graphite to play major role in coming materials revolution

    We have had a fair amount of graphite- and graphene-related coverage on our blog in recent months – but for good reason. As analyst Byron King argues, graphite, as one of the primary carbon raw materials in a naturally occurring form, and allotropes of carbon, such as graphite nanotubes and graphene, will play a major [...]
  • What are China’s intentions for its graphite production?

    The following is a guest post by American Resources expert Simon Moores. Wide-reaching controls on China’s natural resources continue to be at the forefront of its shift to a high value economy. Already industries like rare earths and phosphate fertilizer are tightly controlled by government-forced regulation. The question remains whether graphite – the 9th most [...]
  • Graphene’s pioneers battle global hype

    There has been much hype surrounding what has been described as the world’s wonder material – graphene. It is (theoretically) stronger than steel, more conductive than copper and incredibly flexible. Graphene is a one atom layer of carbon, a truly two-dimensional material. One mining company described it as “graphite, unfolded”. On the face of it [...]
  • As graphite demand increases, geopolitical dimension becomes more apparent

    ProEdgeWire’s Graphite and Graphene Weekly Review sees surging demand for graphite and its derivative graphene, not least because of their important role in battery technology, where graphite continues to be a traditional component, while graphene is considered a major factor in future generation batteries. Recent reports of aircraft batteries catching fire won’t change that – [...]
  • EV uncertainty dominates discussion at Graphite Conference – Part 2

    This is the second of a two-part post by American Resources Expert Simon Moores and his Industrial Minerals colleague, Andy Miller. Read Part One here.   2013 rebound after poor year 2012 has been a poor year for graphite demand. Trading activity has been sapped out of the industry since September with little sign of [...]
  • American Resources experts to speak at international graphite conference

    American Resources Principal Daniel McGroarty will speak alongside fellow American Resources expert and Manager for Industrial Minerals Data, Simon Moores, at Industrial Minerals’ 2nd Graphite Conference 2012 in early December. In light of its traditional uses, its importance for the new Li-ion technology, and the ostensibly endless potential applications for the “new super material graphene,” [...]
  • Tungsten and Fluorspar – strategic implications of mineral resource supply issues stretch beyond REEs

    You wouldn’t necessarily expect to find Tungsten and Fluorspar mentioned in the same sentence as “Rare Earth Metals.” With its traditional applications in ballistics, the former is historically known as a “war metal,” while the latter has been an important component for chemical applications. And in spite of the fact that Tungsten makes the top [...]

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