-->
American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 of the apostrophe. If he hasn’t used it yet, he should.
     While we already featured Moores’ top line points regarding the rise of Lithium Ion megafactories (also see the chart), we would be remiss if we didn’t share some of his takeaways on the implications for the main critical raw material inputs for this technology – namely Lithium, Graphite, Cobalt, and Nickel — and add some additional thoughts. 

    Lithium

    • For Lithium carbonate and Lithium hydroxide, the “base chemicals that the battery industry seeks,” Benchmark Mineral Intelligence sees a 10-fold increase in the industry’s demand profile over a ten-year timeframe. Lithium is largely sourced from Chile, Argentina and Australia, and is processed into battery grade in the U.S. and China. 

    • Meanwhile, in a recent op-ed for the Reno Gazette Journal, professor emeritus of mining engineering at the University of Nevada, Jaak Daemen, citing an even higher demand profile increase for Lithium, argued that with only one Lithium mine in the U.S., the United States is unprepared to meet demand with the main problem not being the lack of resources, but “a regulatory approach that endlessly delays bringing mines in production.” 

    Graphite

    • Lithium Ion technology uses both naturally mined flake Graphite as well as synthetic Graphite, in which the former accounts for roughly 60% of inputs, and the latter for roughly 40%. According to Moores’s testimony, China dominates natural flake mining at 62% of global production in 2016, followed by Brazil at 23%.  A similar scenario unfolds for refining, most of which also takes place in China. 

    • According to Moores, “[w]hile large flake graphite mines are being developed outside of China in Mozambique, Canada and the US, processing capacity to make anode material is still lagging.”

    • As we previously highlighted, the U.S. currently produces zero Graphite, with the last American Graphite mine having closed 25 years ago. 

    • As Moores points out, however, two Graphite companies are currently seeking to mine and process flake graphite for battery grade material in the U.S., so there is hope the supply picture will change domestically.

    Cobalt

    • According to Moores, 64% of the Cobalt consumed globally in 2016 was mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with China dominating the “refining step in the supply chain with 57% of global capacity.”

    • With Cobalt also being a Co-Product to Gateway Minerals like Copper and Nickel, Moores argues that “the fortunes of Cobalt – now driven by battery demand – is still at the mercy of Nickel and Copper commodities which is drive by industrial demand. This is causing long term planning issues for the EV supply chain.”

    • You can read ARPN’s latest blog item on Cobalt here

    Nickel

    • With advances in battery technology and changing formulas, Moores sees battery grade Nickel demand grow “from 75,000 tpa in 2016 to anywhere between 300-400,000 tpa by 2025.” 

    • Nickel production is in the million of tons a year, and from a U.S. point of view, the supply picture recently changed with our import dependence dropping from roughly 50 percent to currently 25 percent with new domestic projects having come online.  

    • However, as Moores points out, “the battery grade chemical material is specialist with only a handful of major producers outside of China.”

    Ultimately, this is food for thought for any discussion regarding the comprehensive mineral resource strategy our nation sorely needs.

    Says Moores:

    “Where we stand today in 2017, China is not only a the center of mass market EV development and deployment but also of cathode production, battery grade raw material refining and the building of the new battery cell capacity.  Those that control raw material and chemical / cathode refining know how and capacity will control the lithium ion battery supply chain. And those that control the lithium ion battery supply chain will be the biggest influencers on the next generation auto and energy industries.”

    Share
  • 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 and member of the ARPN panel of experts, was invited to testify on opportunities and risks in the energy storage supply chain. In his testimony, Moores outlined the “rise of the lithium ion battery megafactories,” and shared Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s assessment of the development of the two largest growth markets for which these lithium ion batteries will be targeted – EV and stationary/utility storage, which Moores characterized as the “two uses that underpin the energy storage revolution.”

    Said Moores:

    Both markets are in their infancy. However, as these markets mature over the next 10 years, the scale of application and its disruptive effect on established auto and energy industries will be unprecedented.”

    Moores then discussed the critical raw material inputs fueling lithium ion technologies — Lithium, Graphite, Cobalt and Nickel — with an eye towards the United States’ current and prospective role in these respective markets. While outlining opportunities, Moores also warned of great risks:

    “The demands EV manufacturers are placing on raw material miners to chemical processors and cathode manufacturers are huge – they are being asked to increase their business footprint by 5-10 times in a 7-year period. At present, there is little desire to share this capital and commercial risk of building new mines or expanding their business to meet this new demand. 

    Major auto manufacturers will eventually have to conclude that supply chain partnerships and capital investment is the only way to secure lithium, graphite, cobalt, nickel or lithium ion battery cells. But this decision-making process is slow for players outside of China and risks derailing any form of revolution in the energy storage industry.”

    He argued that necessary investment is still falling short and “needs to be 10 times larger to create a new blueprint for a post-2030 world.”

    Concluded Moores: 

    “This energy storage revolution is global and unstoppable. For countries and corporations, positioning themselves accordingly to take advantage of this should be of paramount importance and longer term (~10 year) decisions need to be made.”

    Here’s hoping that his testimony resonates with Members of Congress and helps deepen the conversation about a much needed comprehensive mineral resource strategy. 

    To read Moores’s full testimony, click here. Video footage of the hearing will be made available on the committee’s website as well. 

    Share
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]

Archives