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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: DoE’s New Research Center on Lithium Battery Recycling to Leverage Resources of Private Sector, Universities and National Laboratories

    Speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Energy Innovation Council last week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the launch of a new research center on lithium battery recycling.

    The Battery Recycling R&D Center will focus on reclaiming and recycling “critical materials (e.g. cobalt and lithium) from lithium based battery technology used in consumer electronics, defense, energy storage, and transportation applications,” and will be led by Argonne National Laboratory along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    Said Sec. Perry:

    “America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical materials undermines our energy security and national security. (…) DOE will leverage the power of competition and the resources of the private sector, universities, and the National Laboratories to develop innovative recycling technologies, which will bolster economic growth, strengthen our energy security, and improve the environment.

    A commendable effort, the initiative is a direct response to Presidential Executive Order 13817, which, issued in December of 2017, calls for “developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies” embedded into a broader strategy to “ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.” 

    While we applaud the launch of the new research hub, DoE’s reference of the “broader strategy to ‘ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals’” in its press release is important. As followers of ARPN will know, recycling will not obviate the need for traditional mining and is as such not a panacea for mineral resource supply woes – and we are still waiting for the release of the — by now long-overdue — report by the Department of Commerce subsequent to 13817 outlining said “broader strategy” and recommending specific policy steps to implement it. 

    In the meantime, however, with innovations in the field and concerted efforts to not only improve extraction technologies, but to also develop products and materials in ways that lend themselves to easier reclamation of metals, recycling does represent a viable opportunity to alleviate pressures, and we look forward to following the efforts of the Center.

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  • “Consumption” Missing Element in Discussion over Mineral Resource Development

    You need “stuff” to make “stuff.”  It’s a simple concept, but one that is all too often forgotten. As ARPN’s Dan McGroarty wrote in a 2015 Forbes op-ed coauthored with then-CEO of mining advisory firm Behre Dolbear Karr McCurdy:

    “[A]s a precursor to sound policy, the nation needs a change in mind-set: It’s time to remind ourselves that life as we know it is made possible by the inventive use of metals and minerals. Smart phones, the Cloud, the Internet: These things may seem to work by magic, but quite often the backbone of high-tech is mineral and metal, not fairy dust.”

    While there has been some movement on the federal policy front since then, many still fail to fully grasp the above-stated fundamental. Against the backdrop of the current discussion over copper development in Minnesota, Jim Bowyer, an environmental consultant and emeritus professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota, tries to set the record straight in a piece for the Star Tribune.

    Writes Bowyer:

    “In all of the discussion about copper mining in Minnesota, there is a remarkable lack of references to copper consumption within our state. At the same time that wind and solar energy expansion and electric vehicles are being enthusiastically promoted, the critical role of copper (and nickel) to these developments is never mentioned.”

    He points to the increased usage of copper in renewable energy ranging from wind turbines over solar collectors to electric vehicles, all of which is fueling demand for the metal, and draws attention to our reliance on foreign supplies of copper.

    Opponents of copper development projects, he argues, are quick to point to the environmental risks of copper mining, but “in none of [the states that are home to copper development], more anywhere else in the U.S., is there citizen opposition to copper consumption (…).”  Somewhat facetiously, Bowyer suggests that “[a] return to the Obama-era 20-year moratorium on copper mining in Minnesota, as advocated by some, should perhaps be accompanied by a 20-year moratorium on the development and adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and by a concerted investment to find copper (and nickel) substitutes. 

    His bottom line is that we can’t have our cake and eat it, too:

    “Society must come to grips with its aversion to copper procurement even as it celebrates the promise of new copper-dependent products and technologies designed to protect and enhance environmental quality. While taking reasonable steps to protect our domestic environment, we must find a way to shoulder our fair share of risks in obtaining the copper we need — or we must take steps to create a future in which less rather than more copper is needed.”

    Click here to read the full piece.

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  • Video: CMI Founding Director Reflects on Five Years of Critical Materials Research

    Video clips are a great way to ease back into the work week after a holiday.  And thankfully, the Critical Materials Institute, a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, has got you covered. As we recently shared, CMI Founding Director Dr. Alex King has stepped down from the post he [...]
  • Passing the Torch – Change in Leadership at Critical Materials Institute (CMI)

    There’s a lot going on in the realm of critical minerals these days – and that does not only apply to policy, but also personnel changes. After five years of building and leading the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, its Director Dr. Alex King [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: CMI Announces New Partnership to Recover REEs from E-Waste

    A new year, a new installment of our Materials Science Profiles of Progress series: The Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory has announced a new collaboration entered into by one of its industry associates to recover Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from electronic waste.  Momentum [...]
  • 2017 – a Year of Mixed Signals: No Grand Strategy – But Some Signs We May Be Digging Out of Our Resource Dependency

    Amidst the chaos of Christmas shopping, holiday parties and travel arrangements, the end of the year is customarily the time to take stock of the last twelve months and assess where to go from here. Here is our recap of 2017: On the heels of a year that very much presented itself as a mixed [...]
  • “Materials Science Profiles of Progress” – REE Extraction From Coal

    In the fairy tale realm, Rumpelstilskin was able to turn straw into gold. Meanwhile, in the real world, as part of our feature series “Materials Science Profiles of Progress,” we’re taking a closer look at a recently-announced research partnership that may not be able to turn straw into gold, but promises to extract precious Rare [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Researchers Turn to Bioengineered Bacteria to Recover REEs

    Followers of ARPN are well aware that we have been calling out policy makers and other stakeholders for their inaction when it comes to working towards the development of a coherent, forward-looking and comprehensive mineral resource strategy – and we frequently point to missed opportunities to work towards this goal. While we stand by our [...]
  • Boron – One Of The Most Versatile Materials You’ve Never Heard About?

    Visual Capitalist has put together another great infographic – this time one that shows that Boron is far more ubiquitous than one would think.  You may have come across them in your laundry room or your kids’ slime-making experiments in the form of Borax, but may not have heard much about them otherwise. However, with [...]
  • Graphene-fed Spiders and Our Web of Resource Dependencies 

    A material long hailed as being on the cutting edge of materials science, Graphene is making headlines again. And, fitting for fall and people gearing up for Halloween, it involves everyone’s favorite creepy crawlies – arachnids.  Researchers at the University of Trento in Italy have found that spiders fed with graphene and carbon nanotubes, which [...]

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