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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Lithium: Battery Arms Race Powers R&D Efforts in Quest for Domestic Mineral Resources

    As the “tech wars” gear up and the “battery arms race” shifts in to higher gears, efforts to promote the securing of domestic critical mineral supply chains are not only underway in policy circles in Washington, DC, but in the private sector as well.  Companies including the world’s top diversified miners are intensifying their R&D efforts to meet the world’s increasing demand for tech metals. 

    The latest case in point:  Rio Tinto’s successful production of lithium carbonate – a key component of electric vehicle battery technology – as part of the reprocessing of waste piles from its long-standing boron mine in southern California.

    Part of a unit that produced borates [link to old Boron post], the Boron site is home to at least 80 minerals. The lithium find was part of waste reprocessing in an initial search for gold and other elements at the site.  Efforts now shift to improving quality and lifting volumes, according to Bloomberg.

    As Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of issue experts told the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this year, “The growth trajectory expected for lithium ion battery raw material demand is unprecedented. Lithium ion batteries are becoming a major global industry and the impact on the four key raw materials of lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite will be profound.” Outlining theoretical demand scenario from megafactories in the pipeline at 2023 and 2028, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence estimates that lithium demand will increase by over eight times.

    The Boron discovery, while in Moores’ view not necessarily a “volume play,” but rather an “IP [intellectual property] play” is significant because in recent years, there has been only one lithium production facility in the U.S. — prompting analysts like Moores to lament that the United States is a “bystander” in the battery arms race.  

    Confirming Moores’ analysis, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called our nation’s over-reliance on foreign critical minerals our nation’s “Achilles’ heel that serves to empower and enrich other nations, while costing us jobs and international competitiveness.”

     

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  • Against Backdrop of Battery Arms Race, Chemists Receive Nobel Prize for Work on Lithium-Ion Technology

    Critical minerals are a hot button issue.  Materials that long seemed obscure like Rare Earths, Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite, and Nickel have entered the mainstream and are making headlines every day.  

    Against the backdrop of the ongoing materials science revolution and the intensifying battery arms race, it is only fitting that this month, three pioneers of Lithium-ion battery technology were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry.   Through their innovations, John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino, in the words of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that awards the prestigious prize every year, “created a rechargeable world.” 

    A post for Quantamagazine’s Abstractions blog outlines some of the details of the research accomplishments by Goodenough, Whittingham and Yoshino, who, by building on each other’s work, developed a Lithium-ion battery that — unlike the ones used before — were safe, lightweight, and highly efficient. According to Quantamagazine: “That design is ubiquitous today, powering portable electronics and helping to shift the world’s energy infrastructure in a more sustainable direction, as it allows electricity produced from renewable sources, such as the sun and the wind, to be efficiently stored and put to work.”

    Ultimately, in a nutshell, Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives since they first entered the market in 1991.  They have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind.

    Battery technology indeed has come a long way since the three Nobel Prize winners began their work in the field in the 1970s. After Sony introduced the first commercialized the Lithium-ion battery in 1991, camcorders were the biggest driver of demand for several years. Laptops replaced camcorders as biggest source of demand by 2000, and by 2010, the smart phone was the biggest driver of demand for Lithium-ion battery technology.

    Recently, however, fueled in particular by the advent of the electric vehicle (EV), developments in the field of battery technology have been kicked into high gear.

    The fact that Goodenough, Whittingham and Yoshino have finally been recognized for their contributions to the advancement of Lithium-ion battery technology is a testament to these developments and to the growing realization that, in the words of Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and a member of the ARPN panel of experts: “we have reached a new gear in this energy storage revolution which is now having a profound impact on supply chains and the raw materials that fuel it.” 

    Commenting on this year’s Nobel Prize award, Prof. Dame Carol Robinson, president of the British Royal Society of Chemistry, stated that battery tech research will remain an exciting field: 

    “It’s not the end of the journey, as lithium is a finite resource and many scientists around the world are building on the foundations laid by these three brilliant chemists.” 

    As this year’s Lithium-ion laureates remind us, in the meantime, it will be up to U.S. policy makers to devise prudent policies aimed at streamlining U.S. resource policy against a growing sense that the United States is becoming a “bystander” in the current battery arms race.

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  • U.S. to Cooperate with Canada and Australia To Encourage Responsible Resource Development for New Energy Technology

    Amidst growing concerns over the availability of metals and minerals underpinning the EV revolution, the United States, Canada and Australia have joined forces to encourage the responsible development of said materials. As the Financial Times reported earlier last week, the US state department and its Canadian and Australian counterparts “will work to help countries discover and [...]
  • Today: Three Members of ARPN Expert Panel to Discuss Battery Tech Materials and Supply Chains at Miller Thomson’s PDAC 2019

    Bearing testimony of the immense importance of the issue of battery tech materials and their supply chains, three members of the ARPN panel of issue experts will be presenting their viewpoints at a seminar hosted by Miller Thomson as part of their PDAC 2019 Series hosted in Toronto, Canada today. Simon Moores, Managing Director of [...]
  • “Something Does not Come from Nothing” – Formulation of Mineral Resource Strategy Should be a Precursor to Green Energy Debate

    “Something does not come from nothing. That fact can be easily forgotten when it comes to seemingly abstract concepts like ‘energy,’” writes Angela Chen in a new piece for technology news and media network The Verge. Chen zeroes in on four key metals and minerals that have become indispensable components of green energy technology – Neodymium, [...]
  • McGroarty Warns of Real World Problem for 21st Century American Warrior

    In a new commentary for Investor’s Business Daily, ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty warns of “America’s unilateral disarmament in the resource wars.”  Invoking the world of Marvel comics, in which Vibranium is the imaginary metal used for Captain America’s shield, IronMan’s exoskeleton, and Black Panther’s energy-absorbing suit, McGroarty argues that the 21st Century American warrior (perhaps [...]
  • U.S. Senate to Hold Hearing on Energy and Mineral Markets, Member of ARPN Expert Panel to Testify

    We’ve called it “the new black.” The Guardian even went as far as ringing in the “Ion Age.”  Bearing testimony to the growing importance of battery technology, the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing examining the outlook for energy and minerals markets in the 116th Congress on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 with an emphasis on battery [...]
  • Vanadium’s Time to Shine?

    Steve LeVine, Future Editor at Axios and Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council, has called it “one of the most confounding areas of research” and a “technology that, while invented more than two centuries ago, is still frustrating scientists.”   It is also one of the areas where one of the key growth industries – [...]
  • Lithium – Challenges and Opportunities Underscore Need for Domestic Resource Policy Overhaul

    In an interview with InvestingNews.com, Simon Moores, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s managing director and a member of the ARPN panel of experts, discusses challenges relating to Lithium – one of the key materials underpinning EV battery technology. Moores says that big challenges still lie in bringing new supply to the market, but the situation is not [...]
  • Automakers turn to U.S. Market as Potential Source of Lithium

    We’ve said it before, EV battery technology is the new black – and if the metals and minerals fueling this technology are not yet on your radar, you’ve clearly missed the memo.  Even the oil industry is coming to grips with this new reality. As our friends from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence report: “For the first [...]
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