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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Jadarite and the Materials Science Revolution – “Kryptonite” to Alleviate Mineral Supply Concerns?

    In 2007, a new mineral found in Serbia made headlines around the world. “Kryptonite Discovered in Mine” wrote the BBC about the discovery of a material the chemical formula of which – sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide – happened to match the one of the famed kryptonite stolen by Lex Luthor from a museum in the movie “Superman Returns.”

    Dr. Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London’s Natural History Museum, whose help researchers enlisted when they found themselves unable to match their discovery with anything scientifically-known, told the BBC he was “shocked to discover this formula was already referenced in the literature – albeit literary fiction,” and said:

    “The new mineral does not contain fluorine (which it does in the film) and is white rather than green but, in all other respects, the chemistry matches that for the rock containing kryptonite.”

    As Jadarite has nothing to do with the real element Krypton, an colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas often used in fluorescent lamps, the mineral could not be called “kryptonite.” Instead, Jadarite, which contains Boron and Lithium, both of which are known to followers of ARPN for a number of applications, received its official name thanks to the geographic location of its discovery, the  Jadar Valley.

    The reason why most people will not have heard of the mineral is that Serbia is the only place in the world where Jadarite has been found – and to date, it has not been commercially developed.

    Courtesy of the ongoing materials science revolution, which yields research breakthroughs on a daily basis, this may soon change, however. As Mining Review Africa reports, researchers at Rio Tinto’s Technical Development Centre in Bundoora outside of Melbourne, Australia, are working to develop a new chemical procedure to process the material.  A pilot processing plant has been housed within a large shipping container, to allow it to be deployed to the mine site in Serbia.

    Against the backdrop of the current EV battery technology fueling demand for Lithium, these efforts, if successful, could help alleviate mineral supply concerns in the long run.

    While recent stories about an oversupply have caused Lithium prices to slide, analysts believe that the fundamentals for Lithium are strong and long-term demand will shore up again. As Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Andrew Miller recently told Reuters:

    “The demand for lithium isn’t really in question, it’s just a matter of when that demand really kicks in. (…) You just have to look at the number of battery factories that are being built around lithium-ion technology.” 

    As for Borates, while arguably considered the less “sexy” component in the Jadarite mix, fundamentals may be changing here, too.  As Chris Cann recently noted for Mining Journal, while the borates space has “historically, closely tracked global GDP numbers as the ability of the world’s population to buy more household products has driven the use of boric acid, (…), Borates are now linked to two areas of potentially strong growth.” 

    The two areas he references are the traditional application in agriculture/household, as well as the lesser-known use of Borates in electronics, “where Boron-laden permanent magnets are widely consumed, including as the most commonly used magnets for hybrid and electric vehicles.” 

    The bottom line is this – with advances in materials science disrupting and fundamentally altering the supply and demand picture for metals and minerals on a regular basis, the time to devise a comprehensive mineral resource strategy that accounts for these fast-paced changes has come.  Our nation’s competitiveness and national security depends on it.

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  • 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, “much has been made of battery minerals, in particular lithium and cobalt. But graphite, one of three naturally occurring carbons on Earth, is often overlooked.” And with Graphite, comes its derivative, Graphene.

    While Graphite has indeed been flying under the radar, this may change, soon. With as much as 40 times the amount of Graphite in a Lithium-Ion battery as Lithium, demand for the Graphite may increase by an estimated 200% by 2020.  Add to that the fact that super-material Graphene, which is derived from Graphite, is now making an entry into the battery tech field, and demand may take off even more. Writes Lempriere:

    “Over the past eight years, an increasing number of potential uses for graphene have been explored, including its use in supercapacitors and as a membrane for filtration.

    Graphene is capable of transferring electricity 140 times faster than lithium, while being 100 times lighter than aluminium. This means it could increase the power density of a standard Li-ion battery by 45%.”

    As Lempriere outlines, a lack of standardization has so far held back the commercialization of Graphene. With the first Graphene characterization service launched in the United Kingdom in July of this year, this barrier may have been removed, and “a clear framework” could “ease sales of the commodity by ensuring purchase agreements are fair for both buyers ad sellers.”

    Meanwhile, the ongoing revolution in materials science is continuing to yield improvements in the processing of Graphite, thus making the material earn its stripes as a “critical mineral” – a designation the Graphite has earned in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

    According to USGS:

    “Advances in thermal technology and acid-leaching techniques that enable the production of higher purity graphite powders are likely to lead to development of new applications for graphite in high-technology fields. Such innovative refining techniques have enabled the use of improved graphite in carbon-graphite composites, electronics, foils, friction materials, and specialty lubricant applications. Flexible graphite product lines, such as graphoil (a thin graphite cloth), are likely to be the fastest growing market. Large-scale fuel-cell applications are being developed that could consume as much graphite as all other uses combined.”

    If these trend lines continue – and a look at the neck-breaking speed of the materials science revolution tells us there is a very good chance they will – the bottom line is that if Graphite and Graphene are not yet on your radar, they should be.

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  • Lithium – Challenges and Opportunities Underscore Need for Domestic Resource Policy Overhaul

    In an interview with InvestingNews.com, Simon Moores, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s managing director and a member of the ARPN panel of experts, discusses challenges relating to Lithium – one of the key materials underpinning EV battery technology. Moores says that big challenges still lie in bringing new supply to the market, but the situation is not [...]
  • Automakers turn to U.S. Market as Potential Source of Lithium

    We’ve said it before, EV battery technology is the new black – and if the metals and minerals fueling this technology are not yet on your radar, you’ve clearly missed the memo.  Even the oil industry is coming to grips with this new reality. As our friends from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence report: “For the first [...]
  • Supply Chain Timelines Warrant Comprehensive Policy Approach – A Look at Lithium

    In case you haven’t noticed, EV battery technology is the new black. With Lithium being one of the key metals driving this technology, our friends at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence have looked at the material’s supply chain – and the time it takes to develop the respective components of it. As Simon Moores, managing director at [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: CMI Expands Collaborative Research Focus to Include Lithium and Cobalt

    The Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, is expanding its research on tech metals “as rapid growth in electric vehicles drives demand for lithium, cobalt.” According to a recent Ames Lab press release, the Institute will focus on maximizing the efficiency of processing, usage and [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 2018 – A Tipping Point For U.S. Resource Policy and Related Industries?

    The following is a guest post by ARPN expert panel member Chris Berry, Founder, House Mountain Partners. His expertise focuses on, but is not limited to, energy metals including Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite, Vanadium and Rare Earths. The Executive Order recently signed by President Trump to prioritize domestic natural resource development couldn’t have come at a [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]

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