-->
American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Through the Gateway: Of Diaper Rash Cream, Fertilizer and Battery Technology – A Look at Zinc

    If you’re a parent of young children, you’ll probably appreciate Zinc for its medicinal properties – a good diaper rash cream or sunscreen for the little ones comes with a good dose of Zinc oxide.

    Otherwise, you may have come across this metal primarily as an anti-corrosion agent used to prevent metals like steel and iron from rusting, or as an alloying agent, for example in brass, bronze, nickel silver and aluminum solder.  Zinc oxides and sulfates are also used in vulcanized rubber, phosphorescent applications, as well as heat sinks in laptops and cell phones.

    New and interesting uses may increase demand going forward. One such area is agriculture, with China and India turning to Zinc as an addition to fertilizers to improve crop yields and to ultimately reduce mineral deficiencies in end-consumers.

    Another growth market lies in Zinc’s applications in battery technology, itself a growing segment in its own right.  Here, Zinc’s flexibility lends itself to application in wearable battery technology. Zinc batteries’ ability to quickly recharge constitutes another big selling point.

    Furthermore, as we continue our look “Through the Gateway” one should not forget Zinc’s Gateway Metal status – yielding access to metals and minerals as diverse and critical as Cadmium, Indium, Gallium and Germanium, the properties and supply and demand pictures of which we will explore over the next few weeks.

    Domestically, according to USGS, Zinc was mined in five states at 15 mines in 2015. However, we may be heading for trouble.   In spite of the fact that the United States is home to significant Zinc reserves, our degree of import dependence has risen from roughly 71% in 2012 to 82% in 2015. While our main supplier nations are Canada, Mexico and Peru, recent developments in China, which accounts for roughly 40% of global Zinc production, may affect the supply scenario going forward. As Bloomberg reported recently, Chinese smelters are having trouble securing sufficient raw materials and may have to cut production, and analysts see structural deficits looming.

    Zinc’s growing importance due to new applications and its Gateway Metal status is only another reason why policy makers would be well advised to look at our domestic manufacturing base’s mineral resource supply needs (and the needs of parents trying to prevent diaper rashes and sunburns) comprehensively, and strategically — because more often than not, turning to the vast mineral riches beneath our own soil could help prevent supply shortages and ultimately fuel the renaissance of American manufacturing.

    Share
  • Through the Gateway: The Geopolitics of Co-Product Supply – a Look at Scandium

    Throughout ARPN’s work, we have consistently highlighted the geopolitical dimension of mineral resource policy.  Where we source (or fail to source) our metals and minerals is an often forgotten – or ignored – factor, with implications for our domestic manufacturers, and, at times, even for our national security.

    Case in point – and in keeping with our current focus – Scandium.  As we pointed out last week, the main producers for this co-product mineral, which is “ready to take off,” currently are China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, none of which is among our strongest trading partners.

    Russia is now stepping up its Scandium game. As reported by Platts, Russian Aluminum producer Rusal has just announced production of high purity (exceeding 99%) scandium oxide for the first time at its Urals smelter – an announcement following the launch of a pilot project for processing scandium concentrate into scandium oxide from red mud, a byproduct of alumina refining.  Target production — 96 kilograms per year; not quite 4 pounds per week — shows why Scandium is arguably the rarest of the rare earths.

    The announcement ties into the overall context of Scandium’s growing potential, particularly in the context of the aluminum-scandium alloys we discussed last week.

    Russian demand for Scandium has soared in recent years due to its use in various defense applications, including the 5th generation fighter, as well as its modernized version, and may well increase as Russia researches Scandium usage in combat equipment.

    Meanwhile, while some developers are studying the possibility of including co-product development of scandium into their portfolio, the U.S. at present does not produce any scandium, even though the Defense Logistic Agency in 2013 deemed the material “critical” from a national security perspective.

    This year’s U.S. Presidential campaign has sucked up a lot of oxygen — which is about the only element mentioned by the major candidates, despite the fact that any discussion of manufacturing, technology or economic competitiveness is rooted in raw material access.  Perhaps after November, our policy makers will be able to focus their attention on our growing mineral resource dependencies, and devising policies that help American manufacturers gain access to critical materials – the way to which (case in point Scandium) often leads “through the Gateway.”

    Share
  • 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 [...]
  • European Union seeks close cooperation with Greenland to fulfill resource needs

    In an effort to secure access to critical metals and minerals for its industries, European Commission representatives Antonio Tajani (Vice President), and Andris Piebalgs (Commisisoner for Development Cooperation) have signed a letter of intent on cooperation with Greenland’s Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist. The June 13 letter of intent covers cooperation in the areas of joint [...]
  • Miners pull out of Argentina over populist measures

    A cautionary tale comes to us from Argentina, where major resource companies are increasingly shying away from investments in light of growing populism on the part of the Argentinian government. The latest company to pull out of the country is Cameco Corp, a major Uranium producer, announcing the end to a joint-venture exploration project with [...]
  • With China taking the lead, global resource race heats up in Africa

    A lengthy piece in the Asia Times online edition discusses China’s ever-increasing footprint in Africa, arguing that this manifestation of China replacing the West as the “dominant economic and political force in Africa epitomizes the most dramatic shift in geopolitics since the collapse of the Soviet Union.” In its global quest for mineral resources, China [...]
  • Canadian paper warns of new Cold War over arctic riches

    Working to implement a “strategy to reverse years of neglect and decline in its Far North,” Russia appears ready to re-embrace a Cold War, according to a detailed story in the Toronto Star.  Home to vast mineral resources including oil, zinc, and gold, for example, the Arctic is viewed by Russia as its strategic future, [...]
  • Demand for critical mineral lithium likely to increase thanks to new technology

    Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a technology for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that allows them to hold a charge ten times longer than current batteries, and charge ten times faster, according to R&D Magazine.  Going forward, the engineers are looking to develop a new safety mechanism for lithium-ion batteries prompting them to automatically and reversibly [...]
  • Resource Wars: China and Brazil to Battle over Copper Deposits in Africa

    In what may become the most expensive diversified minerals takeover to-date, China and Brazil appear set to engage in a strategic battle over copper deposits in Africa, according to Bloomberg.  In line with China’s recent efforts to enlarge its footprint in Africa in its quest for natural resources, China’s Jinchuan Group is considering countering Rio de Janeiro-based Vale’s [...]
  • China’s Rare Earths attract Japanese Manufacturer

    In this story hitting the East Asia news wires, Showa Denko, a leading Japanese metals fabricator, announced it will be moving its Rare Earths manufacturing facility to China. This is an alarm bell for anyone who believes the U.S. must stake a leadership claim in the green-tech sector. Coupled with decreased Chinese exports, access to [...]

Archives