American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Is Cobalt on Your Radar Yet?

    Last week, we highlighted what has been one of the bright spots in the metals and minerals sphere in recent months – Lithium.  Potentially one of the most important critical materials of our time because of its application in battery technology, its rise to stardom has cast a shadow on another material that may be equally critical: Cobalt.  As John Petersen writes for Investor Intel:

    “For the last 10 years we’ve been deluged with news stories and investment analyses that extoll the virtues of lithium-ion batteries and speculate on the technology’s potential to change the world’s energy landscape forever. While the occasional curmudgeon like my colleague Jack Lifton questions the availability of enough lithium or flake graphite to satisfy soaring demand from the battery industry, everybody has overlooked or ignored the most critical mineral constraint – Cobalt.”

    While this is certainly true for the mainstream, readers of our blog may be familiar with Cobalt’s critical mineral status.

    In 2011, it was one of only four minerals to appear on all three then-published lists of critical metals: the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Strategy list, the American Physical Society’s Panel on Public Affairs & Materials Research Society’s list of Energy Critical Elements, and the European Commission’s Critical Raw Materials list.

    We pointed out at the time that with its applications in industrial and various critical defense applications, and in light of the fact that more than 50% of the world’s Cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – hardly a reliable trading partner – it came as no surprise when Cobalt also took a top tier spot in the American Resources Risk Pyramid, a risk screen for metals and minerals used in U.S. defense applications we created in 2012.

    According to USGS data, the U.S. is home to significant Cobalt deposits, but our import dependency currently stands at 75 percent.

    But as Robin Bromby points out, the supply situation has deteriorated with the fall in copper and nickel prices, the metals that are mined with cobalt as a by-product. He explains:

    “According to Formation Metals, demand growth for cobalt is running at 5.4% a year but supply growth is running at just 2.4%. Cobalt is expected to go into deficit this year; Formation expects mine closures and other factors to mean global output will decline 11% this year. (The biggest threat may be that the nickel prices stay depressed, which will put pressure on nickel laterite mines around the world, and therefore further reduce cobalt by-product.)”

    And, as John Petersen puts it bluntly, this will have consequences for the Lithium-Ion battery industry:

    “In my view the battery industry is careening toward a natural resource cliff at 120 mph while fiddling with the touch-screen and tweeting about its unlimited potential. The supply side of the cobalt equation is entirely dependent on global demand for nickel and copper. The demand side of the cobalt equation includes a rich variety of manufacturers that must have cobalt for products the world considers essential. 

    Whenever increasing demand crosses swords with inflexible supply, the inevitable outcomes are chronic shortages and substantially higher mineral prices.”

    So if Cobalt isn’t on your critical (tech) minerals list yet, the time to put it on your radar is now.

  • Is Lithium the New Black?

    At a time when mineral commodities have been slumping, one material is proving to be the exception to the rule, leading many to hail lithium as a rare bright spot for miners, amid cratering prices of raw materials tied to heavy industry such as iron ore to coal.”

     Via our friend Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Minerals and lead expert on the supply chain for batteries, we came across a solid analysis of minerals in clean car technology.  Bloomberg’s Liam Denning discusses the role of lithium as one of the key minerals at the heart of 21st Century battery technology fueling electric vehicles as well as portable devices and power storage.

    Contrasting lithium’s story with that of two other once promising metals, palladium and uranium, Denning outlines lithium’s rise to stardom, appeal and potential staying power.  His verdict – lithium is a mineral worth watching:

    “Rising demand that is largely indifferent to price, combined with lagging supply, is what commodity bulls dream of. This underpinned the boom in palladium, as well as the recent bull markets in oil and copper. It looks like lithium’s turn is coming.”

    With Tesla’s new Gigafactory slated to open soon, and other battery makers expanding their plants, chances are, he is right.

    Says Simon Moores:

    “[New supply from all lithium sources] will have a critical role to play in sourcing lithium for the battery supply chain. As things stands, there will not be enough lithium to supply the battery megafactories coming onstream.”

    With the net import reliance on foreign supplies of lithium hovering at more than 60% according to USGS estimates, this challenge will most certainly affect U.S. battery makers and downstream domestic industries.

    Click here to read the full piece.

    Click here to keep tabs on Simon Moore’s analysis of critical metals and minerals.

  • Lithium becoming more critical as China pursues “new energy car” strategy

    As if to confirm Robin Bromby’s recent assessment that “the Lithium story [was] getting stronger,” there have been media announcements that China will be subsidizing purchases of electric (and hydrogen) cars sold between now and 2015 to the tune of roughly $9,800. China’s reported goal of putting five million “new energy cars” on the road [...]
  • Lithium’s critical mineral status to be elevated?

    Due to its relevance in battery technology — with Lithium Carbonate being a key component of Lithium-ion batteries — Lithium has received increased attention (though not always positive) in recent years. While the mineral presently only makes the “Watch List” of the American Resources Policy Network’s Risk Pyramid, InvestorIntel’s Robin Bromby sees the Lithium story [...]
  • Lithium Supply & Markets Conference held this week

    Industrial Minerals, the London-based intellectual home of one of our experts, Simon Moores, is hosting a conference on Lithium Supply & Markets in Las Vegas this week. Over the past few years, Lithium has seen increased attention due to its relevance in battery technology. Lithium Carbonate is a key component in the manufacture of Lithium-Ion [...]
  • Lithium, a conflict mineral?

    As we mark Lithium Month, a piece in the online journal ChinaDialogue.net highlights the geo-politics of lithium mining, with a full dollop of irony that our green-tech dreams — read, lithium ion batteries — may have their origins in metals that pose considerable environmental challenges as they’re extracted from the earth. The piece pivots on [...]
  • Our Looming Metals Deficiency

    BusinessWeek today reports the findings of a new study by PwC predicting chronic shortages of 14 metals and minerals critical to major industrial sectors ranging from chemicals and  aviation to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.  Lithium, American Resources’ metal of the month, makes the list.  The report, based on a survey of [...]
  • Happy Lithium Month! – New extraction method to alleviate supply concerns?

    As promised, American Resources is closing out the year with yet another feature month.  After “drilling down” into copper and antimony to highlight the breadth of our mineral needs, we’re making lithium our “metal of the month.” Over the next few weeks, we will showcase lithium’s utilities as well as associated challenges.  Demand for lithium [...]
  • Antimony’s “bright future” spells supply troubles for U.S.

    As Copper Month winds to a close, we’re thrilled to begin Antimony Month, the second part of our three-month informational campaign on copper, antimony, and lithium — American Resources’ way of highlighting how metals and minerals are critical to our economic advancement, quality of life and national security.  All this month we’ll be featuring stories [...]
  • Rare Metals Users Expand Focus Beyond Rare Earths

    Avalon Rare Metals Inc., a mineral exploration and development company primarily focused on rare earth deposits in Canada, is broadening its scope following a request from an “unnamed international industrial minerals company.” According to a press release issued by the company on October 20th, Avalon may partner with the international company to develop minerals on [...]