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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Europe Forges Ahead With Battery Gigafactory Buildout As U.S. Still Struggles to Get Off Starting Block

    The current coronavirus pandemic may have thrown a wrench into the gears of many industries, but — against the backdrop of skyrocketing materials supply needs in the context of the green energy transition — Europe continues to forge ahead with the buildout of its large-scale battery gigafactory capacity. 

    According to London-based Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, whose analysts forecast that at least European 16 plants will be operational by 2030, there have been “some issues with cell producers in Europe struggling to ramp cell production in new facilities to meet demand, but in terms of construction timelines the plants to date have remained on schedule.” 

    With the World Bank forecasting that production of metals and minerals like graphite, lithium and cobalt will have to increase by nearly 500 percent by 2050 to meet global demand for renewable energy technology, this development comes as no surprise.  Growing mineral resource pressures in the context of the low-carbon transition are also prompting global miners to shift their traditional focus, as evidenced most recently by Rio Tinto’s decision to invest almost $200 to move to the next development stage of the lithium-borate Jadar project in Serbia.

    While China continues to hold the pole position as the world’s largest producer of lithium ion batteries, a continuation of the European gigafactory buildout at the above-referenced pace would put Europe at a total annual production capacity of 446 GWh and place the region in second place.  It would also perpetuate the bystander status into which the United States has maneuvered itself in the context of the global battery arms race.

    Earlier this year, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s managing director and member of the ARPN panel of experts Simon Moores argued that  

    “[i]n February 2019, there were 70 battery megafactories in the pipeline of which 46 are in China and 5 in the USA. Today there are 136 of these super-sized electric vehicle battery plants in operation or being planned: 101 in China and 8 in the USA. China is building a battery gigafactory (megafactory) at the rate of one every week; the USA at one every four months. In 2019, China produced 72% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries whereas the USA only 9%.”

    Testifying before the U.S. Senate in June of this year, Moores renewed his call for decisive U.S. action by invoking the U.S.’s successful creation of a widespread semiconductor industry in the 1980s:

    “The lead that the USA built in semiconductors and computing power due to companies like Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel Corporation has sustained the USA’s dominance in global computing for over 5 decades.

    Likewise, those who invest in battery capacity and supply chains today are likely to dominate this industry for generations to come.

    It is not too late for the US but action is needed now.”

    While U.S. policymakers are increasingly aware of the urgency of our nation’s critical mineral needs — a case in point being the formation of a bipartisan Critical Materials Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives late last month) — political calculations in a watershed election year won’t make it easy for reform-minded lawmakers to chance the status quo. 

    However, a look at Europe’s forging ahead with its gigafactory buildout should serve as a reminder that the rest of the world won’t wait for us.

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  • Independence Day 2020 – Critical Mineral Resource Policy in a Watershed Year

    It’s that time of the year again – Independence Day is upon us.  This year, things are different, though. If you’re like us, it kind of snuck up on you, and it took seeing the booths selling fireworks in the parking lots to realize it’s July already.  After all, we just came off the longest month of March ever, right?

    While parades and fireworks to honor the men and women who have fought for, and continue to safeguard our freedom today, have been canceled in many places, July 4th still provides us with an opportunity to pause and take stock of where we are as a nation — and this year, there is much to reflect on.

    From a critical mineral resource perspective, we at ARPN have always used the occasion of Independence Day to remind ourselves that “while we cherish the freedom we are blessed with in so many ways, we must not become complacent, as there are areas where we’re increasingly becoming less independent” — with our reliance on foreign mineral resources being a case in point. 

    Today, this statement rings more true than ever, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic having exposed the vast extent of our mineral resource supply chain vulnerabilities. As ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argued in a piece for Real Clear Politics in March, “[t]he rapid spread of the coronavirus is doing more than claim an alarming number of human hosts — it is burning through decades of bureaucratic inertia and plain inattention as the American economic ecosystem has become dangerously dependent on China.”

    As followers of ARPN know — and as our nation as a whole is increasingly realizing —the United States’ reliance on foreign non-fuel minerals has significantly increased over the course of the past 65 years, both in terms of number and type, as well as as a percentage of import reliance.  Along with the rise in import dependency came a drastic shift in provider countries.

    Whereas the number of non-fuel mineral commodities for which the United States was greater than 50% net import-dependent was 28 in 1954, this number increased to 47 in 2014.  And while the U.S. was 100% net import reliant for 8 of the non-fuel commodities analyzed in 1954, this total import reliance increased to 11 non-fuel minerals in 1984, and currently stands at 17.  In the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries report, China continues to be the elephant in the data room, and is listed 25 times as one of the major import sources of metals and minerals for which our net import reliance is 50% or greater.

    This spells trouble, and this realization is going mainstream, as indicated by this week’s Wall Street Journal discussion of a report by consulting firm Horizon Advocacy, which (looking specifically at rare earths) warns that “China’s rare earths positioning both implicates and threatens the entire global system,” and that “China will not rule out using rare earth exports as leverage (…).”

    Thankfully, there are indications that policymakers on Capitol Hill, in Cabinet Departments and in the White House are taking the issue seriously, and, after years of inaction, a flurry of current policy initiatives aimed at alleviating our supply chain vulnerabilities points to the U.S. Government viewing strategic materials and critical minerals issues with a new seriousness.

    Underscoring the urgency of the situation largely from a battery tech minerals perspective, Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and a member of the ARPN panel of experts, told the committee that “(…) the consequences of a long-term cutoff of some of the critical materials that we’ve discussed today would just be disastrous for the U.S. economy. (…) The threat of China…is becoming more and more evident every day even during this pandemic.” 

    How we proceed forward over the next few months of 2020 could become a watershed moment for United States. Will we continue to tinker around the edges of policy reform, or will we finally take significant steps towards U.S. mineral resource independence? 

    As Moores concluded in his Senate testimony with regards to securing critical mineral resource supply chains:

    “It is not too late for the US but action is needed now.”

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  • Experts to U.S. Senators: It’s “Not Too Late for the U.S.” to Secure Mineral Supply Chains Post-COVID, “But Action is Needed Now”

    In a timely hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, witnesses discussed the urgency of securing U.S. mineral supply chains in a post-COVID context.  Committee Chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has long been an advocate of comprehensive mineral resource policy reform set the stage arguing that “[t]he pandemic has brought [...]
  • Event Alert – This Week: EV Supply Chain Festival 2020

    “Cancelled.”  It’s a word we’ve become all to familiar with in recent week.  Sports.  Concerts.  Conferences.  As a consequence of the current Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen a slew of festival cancellations in recent weeks.  Thankfully, 21st Century technology (powered by critical metals and minerals) has made it possible to shift over to virtual get-togethers, and [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member: U.S. Must Turn to Building Out Critical Mineral Supply Chains Securing Both Inputs and Outputs

    Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), long one of the leaders on Capitol Hill pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s mineral resource policy, addressed the challenges of our nation’s over-reliance on foreign – and especially China-sourced critical metals and minerals against the backdrop of the current Coronavirus pandemic in a post [...]
  • New Chart Unveils Supply Chain Weaknesses for Manganese, a Critical Input for EV Technology

    Testifying before the U.S Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in February 2019, ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Simon Moores sounded the alarm on the supply chains of metals and minerals that are key components of battery technology and energy storage. Arguing that we were in the middle [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]

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