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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • resource dependency

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  • 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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  • A Look at Gateway Metal Import Dependence: Copper – 25 Years of Rising Dependence

    If our trip Through the Gateway holds one lesson so far, it’s that old patterns and paradigms are out the window.  Advances in technology and materials sciences have changed the applications for many mainstay metals and are fueling demand.   As we have outlined, the same applies for numerous rare tech metals, which are primarily sourced as co-product metals in the refinement process for our Gateway Metals Copper, Aluminum, Tin, Zinc and Nickel.

    With access to these tech metals being contingent on the availability of their respective Gateway Metal(s), the geopolitical dimension of resource policy becomes all the more important.   Not too long ago, a USGS analysis painted a troubling picture, showing that across the board, our reliance on foreign non-fuel minerals has significantly increased over the examined 60-year time frame.

    We decided to zero in import dependence percentages specifically for our Gateway Metals, using the last 25 years of data provided by USGS in its Mineral Commodity Summaries.  A look at the trend line for our first Gateway Metal, Copper, which provides us with access to Rhenium, Molybdenum, Selenium and Tellurium confirms that the United States’ degree of import dependence for Copper has grown drastically since the end of the Cold War:

    Copper_dependence                                                                                        Source: USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries

    This needn’t be.  As we have previously pointed out, with our own reserves and at mining projects ready to come online, the U.S. would not only be able to become self-sufficient with regards to meeting Copper needs, but could even position itself to be a Copper net exporter.  In the process, the U.S. would also provide our domestic manufacturers with stable access to its co-products, which are some of the key tech metals we’ve come to rely upon to drive 21st Century innovation.

    We will review our nation’s import dependence numbers for some of the other Gateway Metals in separate posts, but a look at Copper alone makes clear that it is time for a new, more comprehensive approach to mineral resource policy.

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  • 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 [...]
  • McGroarty before U.S. Senate Committee: “Increased Resource Dependence Jeopardizes U.S. Economic Strength and Manufacturing Might”

    In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on “the Near-Term Outlook for Energy and Commodities Markets” last week, ARPN Principal Daniel McGroarty argues that while in the long-run, the market is self-corrective, there are certain actions that should be taken while we wait for that long-run to arrive if [...]
  • U.S. Mineral Resource Dependency Continues to Spell Trouble

    For children, it’s the arrival of the first snow each year – for policy wonks, it’s the release of an annual study.  Whereas kids run to check the window multiple times a day once snow has been forecast, policy wonks continuously check for updates on the release of that study when it’s that time of [...]
  • Food for thought for world leaders discussing climate change

    This week, world leaders are gathering in Paris to push for an agreement on climate change, which could spell the end of the fossil era, and ring in the age of post-carbon technology.  In a recent piece for the New York Times, David S. Abraham points to an important, yet oft-ignored paradox: “(…) even as our leaders [...]
  • Will the U.S. Congress take on resource development regulatory reform?

    Those of us who follow how public policy impacts private-sector efforts to develop domestic mineral resources need to tune in to the current Capitol Hill debate on jobs and economic growth. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) recently introduced the Public Lands Job Creation Act, a bill that he says “will streamline the permitting process for energy [...]
  • China again tightens REE exports; Japan seeks to diversify supply base.

    Worried about China’s ongoing rare earths stranglehold and further cutbacks of exports, Japan looks to diversify its rare earths supply basis. While a delegation of Japanese business leaders recently urged China to ensure a stable supply to Japan, the Japanese government is stepping up its efforts to find alternative sources for the sought-after commodity. In [...]
  • American Resources Policy Network Launches Informational Campaign on Copper, Antimony, and Lithium

    CopperMatters.org Shows that Resource Dependency goes beyond Rare Earth Elements Washington, D.C. – The American Resources Policy Network announced today that it would expand on its messaging in favor of exploring the available non-fuel resources in America by launching a campaign for copper, antimony, and lithium – elements readily available in the country, yet not [...]
  • The case for cobalt: Why America should pay attention to this critical metal

    In an interview with The Critical Metals Report, analyst Rick Mills shares his thoughts on how cobalt is the “king of critical metals.” Increasingly indispensable as an industrial metal, in the development of green technologies, and in various critical defense applications, cobalt is one of only four metals or element groups to make all three recently [...]

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