-->
American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 percent reliant on foreign sources, 24 came in part from [this country].”

    It is the big elephant in the global resource policy room: China. And its footprint is growing – as we recently outlined, in the Arctic, and in Africa. A recent comprehensive Financial Times piece by David Pilling outlines Beijing’s growing multifaceted involvement on the African continent. As Pilling writes: 

    “In the past 15 years, […] the level of engagement by Chinese state-owned enterprises, political leaders, diplomats and entrepreneurs has put centuries of previous contact in the shade.”

    China’s engagement ranges from loans over investments for construction of roads, ports and railways to involvement in peacekeeping missions. According to Pilling, who cites think tank figures, China-Africa trade has risen from a mere $10 billion to 220 billion since 2000, while China’s foreign direct investment stocks went up from just 2 per cent of US levels to 55 per cent. Meanwhile, about one-sixth of all loans to Africa come from China.

    Most recently, and not surprisingly, Cobalt – a critical component of EV battery technology – has been in the crosshairs of Chinese companies, which have purchased multibillion-dollar stakes in mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At 3,400,000 metric tons, the DRC is home to the world’s largest Cobalt reserve and roughly 62 percent of global refined Cobalt is sourced here.

    What does this mean for the rest of the world – and for the U.S. in particular? Writes Pilling:

    “The China-Africa relationship — partly spontaneous and partly the fruit of an orchestrated push from Beijing — is shifting the commercial and geopolitical axis of an entire continent that many western governments had all but given up on. While Europeans and Americans view Africa as a troubling source of instability, migration and terrorism — and, of course, precious minerals — China sees opportunity. Africa has oil, copper, cobalt and iron ore. It has markets for Chinese manufacturers and construction companies. And, perhaps least understood, it is a promising vehicle for Chinese geopolitical influence.”

    The global resource wars are continuing to heat up, but the U.S., for too long hamstrung by outdated policies and regulatory red tape, has been slow to even get off the starting block. There are indications this is changing, as evidenced by a current U.S. Commerce Department investigation into whether aluminum and steel imports from China and elsewhere constitute a threat to national security, among other things.

    As China continues its global quest for resources, now would be a good time for policy makers and stakeholders formulate a comprehensive U.S. mineral resource strategy our country has been sorely lacking. 

     

    Share
  • 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 key components of cutting-edge gadgetry and technology.

    Most recently, scientists at UCLA have released their findings regarding a new technique using Silicon and Boron to break carbon-hydrogen bonds and make carbon-carbon bonds.  In doing so, they have overcome one of the big challenges of molecular science – the strong bond between carbon and hydrogen bonds – without using rare and expensive elements like Iridium.

    Of particular interest to the energy industry, which has been seeking ways to turn simple hydrocarbon molecules into new fuels, this new method “will enable scientists to incorporate methane into bigger molecules,” says UCLA assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Hosea Nelson.

    The UCLA research team touts other possible applications: 

    “Another potential application would be converting methane, one of the primary components of natural gas, into something that’s denser and easier to contain after it has been drilled from Earth. The current process is complicated because methane, a light gas, tends to escape into the atmosphere.

    Furthermore, because the technique used by the researchers can be performed at “temperatures and gas pressures that are easily attainable in a laboratory” and allows for the assembly of complex molecules in fewer reaction steps that previously possible, chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers could save both time and money.  Ultimately, the molecules in existing pharmaceuticals might be altered to be made more effective, safer, or less addictive.

    This development will in all likelihood not impact the United States’ supply scenario for Borates – after all Borates are one of the few minerals of which we are a net exporter.   It does, however, once more underscore how materials science is a real game-changer in how we should look at mineral resources and underlying policies.

    In the case of Boron, the United States boasts a strong production base ensuring supply not only for our domestic needs but also for our trading partners’ needs. A single mine in California supplies roughly 30 percent of the world’s demand for refined Borates.

    As we previously pointed out:

    “With mining exports making considerable positive contributions to America’s trade balance, policy makers and other stakeholders should embrace policies that encourage the development of the mineral resources we are blessed to have beneath our own soil – not just for those where our demand exceeds supply, but for those like Boron, where U.S. production supplies the world.”

    Share
  • 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 [...]
  • As Resource Dependence Deepens, Miners Pivot Back to U.S. For Exploration

    Against the backdrop of market prices recovering and supply woes looming, mining companies are expected to increase spending on exploration for the first time in five years, reports news agency Reuters. In what may spell good news for the United States, analysts anticipate the biggest expenditure increases to occur in the United States, Canada and Australia, all [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Germanium – Semiconductor of the Future?

    Our first Zinc co-product, Germanium, is a silvery metalloid.  According to USGS, “in nature, it never exists as the native metal in nature” and “is rarely found in commercial quantities in the few minerals in which it is an essential component.” That said, the “most commercially important germanium-bearing ore deposits are zinc or lead-zinc deposits formed at low temperature.” Discovered [...]
  • Event: Benchmark Minerals World Tour Comes to Washington DC

    If you are based out of Washington, DC or happen to be in town on October 21, here’s an event you should not miss: Our friends at Benchmark Minerals, a U.K.-based price data collection and assessment company specializing in the lithium ion battery supply chain, are taking their Benchmark World Tour to Washington, DC.   ARPN expert and Benchmark [...]
  • 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 [...]

Archives