American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 better time. Though the idea of foreign dependence on critical raw materials such as rare earth elements, lithium, and cobalt is not a new one, globally synchronized economic growth and a new Administration in Washington have many thinking that “this time could be different” and a new approach and attitude towards domestic raw material extraction and processing has increased in importance.

    Technology has traditionally been a deflationary “force for good” specifically in the energy industry (think about how hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the oil and gas business has put OPEC on its heels and allowed a US-based oil and gas business to compete anew). The leadership that the US has shown in this industry is in no small part due to the research and development funding from the US Government in past decades. It is not a stretch to expect the same deflationary phenomenon to affect the mobility and energy storage industries underpinned by lithium ion batteries.

    Technologically-driven cost deflation can be seen in other industries such as the lithium ion battery business where the cost per kilowatt-hour (KWh) has fallen by roughly 10 to 14% per year since 2000. This has massive implications for both the energy industry (renewable energy deployment and grid integration) and automobile industry (electric vehicle adoption). Most experts expect cost parity between a full electric vehicle and a traditional internal combustion engine early in the next decade. What are we in the United States doing to get ready for this massive shift with respect to security of supply of raw materials?

    We are clearly at a tipping point for these industries, as their increasing need for critical minerals and metals intersects with an aggressive China, making security of supply of raw materials a small but highly significant Achilles Heel of supply chain management. The United States has numerous well known deposits of critical minerals, such as lithium and cobalt, many of which at today’s prices are economic to extract and process. So what are we waiting for? What we have lacked historically is the political will to find a balance between national security, commerce, and environmental concerns. President Trump’s Executive Order is a welcome, though controversial, first step in reckoning with this challenge that has profound consequences for US competitiveness and job creation going forward.

  • 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 Intelligence, Simon Moores recently outlined, “is coming of age in a big way. It’s the core ingredient to 99 percent of electric vehicles and as a result, demand is going through the roof.”

    Meanwhile, China has long been jockeying for pole position in the EV industry segment, and is “outpacing the U.S. and other countries in a global race to secure supplies of [Lithium - ] an all-important element for electric cars.”

    In global terms, Moores’s company sees a 10-fold increase in the industry’s demand profile over a ten-year timeframe.  Currently, Lithium supplies are largely sourced from Chile, Argentina and Australia, and processed into battery grade material in China and the U.S.

    Against the backdrop of surging demand, a few months ago, professor emeritus of mining engineering at the University of Nevada, Jaak Daemen, lamented that the reason the U.S. was unprepared to meet demand was not a lack of resources, but rather “a regulatory approach that endlessly delays bringing mines in production.”

    The executive order may help change that.

    Nevada is one of the states with known Lithium reserves. As the Las Vegas Sun recently outlined, “[b]uoyed by Nevada’s enormous potential reserve of lithium and the opening of Tesla’s Gigafactory nearly 200 miles to the north, 25 mining companies and investor-backed speculators have staked more than 13,000 placer claims, covering almost the entirety of the Clayton Valley and 18 hydrographic basins.”

    Meanwhile, much of these companies’ activities in the state are still exploratory, and as Jim Faulds, geologist and director of the Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Nevada in Reno has pointed out, “Lithium has not been studied in much detail in Nevada to really understand how much might be out there.” 

    As a direct consequence of the executive order, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has already signed a secretarial order directing initial steps to producing the first nationwide geological and topographical survey of the U.S. in modern history, and in doing so marking a first step towards “really understanding how much might be out there” – not just Lithium and not just in Nevada, but materials across the critical minerals spectrum and across the United States. Coupled with other reforms outlined by the executive order, including permitting reform which has hampered domestic mineral resource development for too long, this survey may help yield a comprehensive federal action plan that can significantly reduce our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources.

    While it is unlikely that the U.S. will become self-sufficient for its Lithium needs, there is no good reason why we should not harness our domestic resource potential to the fullest extent possible, and in doing so make the U.S. stronger, more competitive, and safer.

  • 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 [...]
  • The Surge of EV Technology and Implications for Mineral Resource Supply and Demand

    You may have caught Elon Musk’s exchange with Daimler on Twitter over investment in EV technology earlier this week. Vacuum giant Dyson has also tossed its hat into the ring announcing that it will spend $2.7 billion to develop an electric car. The headlines are piling up, and it’s no longer a secret that demand [...]
  • China Jockeys for Pole Position in EV Industry

    ARPN followers know it’s the elephant in the room. China. Already vast and resource-rich, the country has demonstrated an insatiable appetite for the world’s mineral resources and has pursued an aggressive strategy to gain access to the materials needed to meet the world’s largest population’s resource needs. Thus, it comes as no surprise that China [...]
  • Lithium – A Case In Point for Mining Policy Reform

    In a recent op-ed for the Reno Gazette Journal, professor emeritus of mining engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, Jaak Daemen makes the case for comprehensive mining policy reform.   Citing the arrival of electric vehicles in which “battery technology is catching up with the hype,” he cautions that benefits benefits associated with the [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]