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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Graphene-fed Spiders and Our Web of Resource Dependencies 

    A material long hailed as being on the cutting edge of materials science, Graphene is making headlines again. And, fitting for fall and people gearing up for Halloween, it involves everyone’s favorite creepy crawlies – arachnids. 
    Researchers at the University of Trento in Italy have found that spiders fed with graphene and carbon nanotubes, which had been added to their drinking water, produced silk that was five times stronger, making the webs they built as strong as carbon fibers and Kevlar, which are considered the strongest materials on Earth, according to a recent article in Futurism.   

    The unique properties and versatility of Graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms, prompted the European Commission to designate the material an FET – a “Future & Emerging Technologies” Flagship, dedicating a 10-year, 1 billion Euro research and innovation initiative to Graphene.  

    The Italian researchers’ discovery is another case in point of how Materials Science is finding new uses for materials, thus shifting the paradigms of resource supply and demand. 

    Graphite, from which Graphene is derived is also a key material we will need for next-gen energy storage systems. Meanwhile, the U.S. currently produces zero Graphite, with the last American Graphite mine having closed 25 years ago. Once again, the U.S. finds itself 100% import dependent, relying to a great extent on Chinese supplies of Graphite to meet domestic needs. 

    We may not be trapped in webs built by Graphene-doped spiders anytime soon, but the possibilities of harnessing the potential of this discovery seem endless. We are, however, already entangled in a web of foreign mineral resource dependencies, which represent a “clear and present danger” for the U.S., as ARPN’s Dan McGroarty recently outlined in his commentary for Investor’s Business Daily.  It’s time our policy makers took note. 

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  • China Jockeys for Pole Position in EV Industry

    ARPN followers know it’s the elephant in the room. China. Already vast and resource-rich, the country has demonstrated an insatiable appetite for the world’s mineral resources and has pursued an aggressive strategy to gain access to the materials needed to meet the world’s largest population’s resource needs.

    Thus, it comes as no surprise that China is also jockeying for “Pole Position,” as Robert Blain writes for China Daily Asia Weekly in what may well be one of the hottest commodity fields of our time: EV battery technology and the electric car industry as a whole – from “vehicle manufacturing and sales to battery technology.” 

    Demand for EV technology is surging in China, as electric and hybrid car sales are growing at a rapid pace. A recent survey cited in the article found that while Germany took the top spot for EV technology, China is emerging as an industry leader: “In industry, China has confirmed its pole position. The reason for this is the continuing rapid growth of the market, more than 90 percent of which is supplied with lithium- ion cells produced locally. This high local share is partly due to the fact that subsidies only apply where there is local value creation.”

     The article heavily quotes our friend and member of the ARPN panel of experts, Simon Moores of Benchmark Minerals. Moores believes that “there is no doubt China is the global hub for the electric vehicle revolution.” 

    He is quoted as saying: 

    “China is producing its own electric vehicles, but the export vehicles are first likely to be Western-branded ones. For example, [US electric-car maker] Tesla is looking to make batteries in a new Gigafactory near Shanghai. This is the first step in making Tesla EVs in China for the domestic and export market. VW [Volkswagen] has similar grand plan.”

    Ultimately, according to Moores, “for foreign car manufacturers to have power in the EV market, ‘they need to be in China.’”

    The article continues: 

    “China is also very well positioned in the production and export of lithium-ion batteries typically used to power electric cars. ‘China already produces the bulk of lithium-ion battery cathode material,’ said Moores. ‘It is locking up the lithium supply chain through Ganfeng Lithium and to a lesser extent Tianqi Lithium. It controls cobalt supply and battery grade refining and produces the vast majority of the world’s graphite anode material.’ Nearly 70 percent of all new lithium-ion battery capacity being built in new megafactory structures will be based in China, he said.”

    In a recent commentary for Investor’s Business Daily, our very own Dan McGroarty pointed out China’s prominent role as a lead supplier of the world’s mineral resources :

    “As noted by the U.S. Geological Survey, we are 100% import-dependent for 20 metals and minerals, and 50% or more dependent for another 50. As for where the U.S. obtains these metals and minerals it needs but does not mine, China is a leading supplier of 28 of the 50 — up from 21 just a year ago.”

    Time for policy makers to take note. We may not always be able to significantly reduce our reliance on foreign mineral resources, but where possible, we should work towards that goal – particularly when our lead suppliers are not the most reliable trading partners. We have several opportunities to do so – some of which McGroarty outlined in his commentary.  

    China will certainly remain a force to be reckoned with in the mineral resource realm, but Lithium and Lithium-ion technology represent a great case in point for comprehensive mining policy reform in the United States.

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  • Lithium – A Case In Point for Mining Policy Reform

    In a recent op-ed for the Reno Gazette Journal, professor emeritus of mining engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, Jaak Daemen makes the case for comprehensive mining policy reform.   Citing the arrival of electric vehicles in which “battery technology is catching up with the hype,” he cautions that benefits benefits associated with the [...]
  • Why Cobalt Should be High on Your Radar

    In a recent article, the Financial Times zeroes in on one of the metals followers of ARPN will know is becoming increasingly indispensable to 21st Century clean energy technology: Cobalt.  Once an obscure metal you rarely heard about, this co-product of Nickel and Copper is increasingly afforded “critical mineral status” – primarily because of its [...]
  • Africa Taking Center Stage in China’s Quest for Resources

    It is “the single largest source of mineral commodities for the United States, particularly for resources like rare earth elements, germanium, and industrial diamonds,” according to the United States Geological Survey, which notes in its most recent Mineral Commodity Summaries report that “of the 47 mineral commodities that the United States is more than 50 [...]
  • Boron: Of “Slime,” Materials Science and Trade Balances

    If you have preschoolers or grade schoolers at home on summer break, chances are you’ve already had to make “slime.”   Researching the various recipes to make the latest kids’ craze, you will likely also have come across one often-used ingredient: Borax. While Borax has long been a traditional staple in American laundry rooms, borates are increasingly becoming [...]
  • Scandium – Ready to “Take Off”?

    Remember the Light Rider?  A few months ago, we highlighted this high-tech motorcycle, which, because it is held together by an intricate web of “Scalmalloy,” is perhaps the lightest motorcycle in the world. Scalmalloy is an “aluminum alloy powder ‘with almost the specific strength of titanium’ [used] to build incredible structures by fusing thin layers of the material together.” One [...]
  • Rhenium: “Alien Technology” Underscores Importance of Gateway Metals and Co-Products

    At ARPN, we have consistently highlighted the importance of Gateway Metals, which are materials that are not only critical to manufacturing and national security in their own right, but also “unlock” tech metals increasingly important to innovation and technological development. With advancements in materials science, these co-products, many of which have unique properties lending themselves [...]
  • Urban Mining – No Panacea but Important Piece of the Resource Strategy Puzzle

    Advances in materials science continue to transform the way we use metals and minerals, and in doing so, also change the supply and demand scenarios for many materials. As we recently pointed out on the ARPN blog, demand for Cobalt has been soaring thanks to its applications in battery technology and the growing popularity of electronic [...]
  • 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 [...]

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