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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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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  • Event: Benchmark Minerals World Tour Comes to Washington DC

    If you are based out of Washington, DC or happen to be in town on October 21, here’s an event you should not miss:

    Our friends at Benchmark Minerals, a U.K.-based price data collection and assessment company specializing in the lithium ion battery supply chain, are taking their Benchmark World Tour to Washington, DC.   ARPN expert and Benchmark Minerals Managing Director Simon Moores and his team are bringing together a great lineup of speakers for a two-panel half-day event. 

    The first panel featuring American Resources Policy Network President Daniel McGroarty and Simon Moores will focus on upstream issues related to the battery supply chain. McGroarty will outline the challenges associated with U.S. policy and critical minerals, while Moores will break down the battery supply chain link by link.

    Following a set of presentations by public company speakers, a second session featuring Boston Power CTO Richard Chamberlain and Cairn Energy Research Associates Managing Director Sam Jaffe will analyze the downstream lithium ion industry from cell manufacturing to pack construction and end market developments.

    Here are the details in a nutshell: 

    What:              Benchmark Minerals World Tour Washington, DC Event

    When:             October 21, 1:30pm to 5:30pm

    Where:           Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20036

    RSVP here. We hope to see you there. 

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  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]

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