-->
American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • mineral resource strategy

  • HOMEPAGE >> BLOG >> mineral resource strategy
  • 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.

    Share
  • An Early Christmas Present? New Executive Order Calls for National Strategy to Increase Domestic Resource Development

    Only one day after USGS released its new report “Critical Minerals of the United States” – a study which underscores the United States’ over-reliance on foreign minerals – a new executive order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to publish within 60 days a list of critical minerals to be followed by a report (after another 120 days) outlining:

    (i)    a strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on critical minerals;

    (ii)   an assessment of progress toward developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies, and technological alternatives to critical minerals;

    (iii)  options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade with our allies and partners;

    (iv)   a plan to improve the topographic, geologic, and geophysical mapping of the United States and make the resulting data and metadata electronically accessible, to the extent permitted by law and subject to appropriate limitations for purposes of privacy and security, to support private sector mineral exploration of critical minerals; and

    (v)    recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes related to developing leases; enhancing access to critical mineral resources; and increasing discovery, production, and domestic refining of critical minerals.

    The order caps off a year in which we have seen several relevant, but, in the grand scheme of things, small positive developments in various mineral resource policy areas, all of which we considered progress. However they still lacked a clear overarching strategic vision. Once implemented, the order could help change that.

    Said ARPN principal Dan McGroarty:

    “The Executive Order is a welcome sign that the U.S. Government is ready to take a strategic approach on the issue of critical metals and minerals, and the dangers of our deep dependency on foreign-sourced supply.

    We’ve had years of studies ringing alarm bells in the night, and [this week’s] USGS report drives home the point:  It is time to establish a list of strategic and critical minerals based on their importance to the national economy and national security – and develop a comprehensive federal action plan to encourage domestic resource production, through mining, recycling and reclamation.”

    The USGS list of 23 critical minerals released earlier this week as part of the agency’s Professional Paper 1802, which effectively updates a 1973 landmark report, contains several materials ARPN has frequently as part of our informational campaign to highlight the importance of “Co-Product Metals and Minerals” –  i.e. materials that are generally not mined as stand-alone metals but are mostly “unlocked” in the refining process of their “Gateway Metals.”

    As the Department of the Interior, along with other agencies develops its resource strategy, it would be well advised to incorporate ways to harness the interrelationship between Gateway Metals – which include mainstay metals like Copper, Aluminum, Nickel, Tin and Zinc  – and their Co-Products, many of which are increasingly becoming the building blocks of 21st Century technology.

    With the executive order, supported by several other positive developments we outlined here, the stage is set for meaningful mineral resource policy reform.

    Here’s hoping the momentum that has been building carries over into 2018. Our national security and economic wellbeing depends on it.

    Share
  • Clear Your Holiday Reading List – USGS Releases “Critical Materials of the United States”

    Too much family? Too much rockin’ around the Christmas tree? If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and sit down with a good book, look no further – USGS has you covered. The agency has just released a new study entitled “Critical Minerals of the United States“ which [...]
  • Nickel – The “Metal That Brought You Cheap Flights” Now “Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution”

    Another week, another great infographic by Visual Capitalist – this time on the “Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution” – Nickel. Long an important base metal because of its alloying capabilities, Nickel’s status as a Gateway Metal, yielding access to tech minerals like Cobalt, Palladium, Rhodium and Scandium – all of which are increasingly becoming [...]
  • European Commission Expands Critical Raw Materials List (U.S. Government, Are You Listening?)

    Earlier last month, the European Commission released an updated list of critical raw materials in the context of the European Union’s “Raw Materials Initiative” – a project put forward in 2008 to tackle challenges associated with raw material access.  The 2017 list is an update and expansion of the Commission’s 2014 list, identifying 27 raw [...]
  • Happy Birthday, Air Force – Ready For The Next Seventy Years?

    As the Air Force celebrates its 70th birthday this week, now is not only the time to commend this branch of our military for its dedication to defending America and safeguarding our freedoms. It is also an opportune time to evaluate the state of the Force and look ahead. Doing just that at the Annual [...]
  • Cobalt Demand on the Rise – But What About Supply?

    Once an obscure metal most people had rarely heard about, Cobalt, a co-product of Nickel and Copper, is becoming a hot commodity and is increasingly afforded “critical mineral” status. The main reason for this development is Cobalt’s application in Lithium-ion battery technology. Soaring demand for rechargeable batteries and the growing popularity of electric cars have sent the [...]

Archives