American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • American Geosciences Institute Webinar on “The Science and Supply of America’s Critical Minerals and Materials”

    Earlier this week, the American Geosciences Institute hosted a webinar entitled “Underpinning Innovation: The Science and Supply of America’s Critical Minerals and Materials.” Speakers for the event, which was co-sponsored by a variety of expert organizations, included:

    Lawrence D. Meinert, Mineral Resources Program, U.S. Geological Survey;

    Steven M. Fortier, National Minerals Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey; and

    Rod Eggert, Colorado School of Mines; Critical Materials Institute, Ames Laboratory.

    The event, the goal of which was to “address efforts taken at the federal level to ensure a steady supply of critical minerals and materials,” will hopefully help raise awareness of an issue that continues to fly under the radar as electoral politics and policy gridlock continue to dominate Washington, DC: the United States’ mineral resource dependencies which have significantly increased over the last 60 years, as a recent USGS study has pointed out.

    We will provide a more thorough recap of the event, along with a forthcoming link to a recording of the event in a few days, so check back soon. In the meantime, you can already view the speakers’ presentation slides here.


  • Is Cobalt on Your Radar Yet?

    Last week, we highlighted what has been one of the bright spots in the metals and minerals sphere in recent months – Lithium.  Potentially one of the most important critical materials of our time because of its application in battery technology, its rise to stardom has cast a shadow on another material that may be equally critical: Cobalt.  As John Petersen writes for Investor Intel:

    “For the last 10 years we’ve been deluged with news stories and investment analyses that extoll the virtues of lithium-ion batteries and speculate on the technology’s potential to change the world’s energy landscape forever. While the occasional curmudgeon like my colleague Jack Lifton questions the availability of enough lithium or flake graphite to satisfy soaring demand from the battery industry, everybody has overlooked or ignored the most critical mineral constraint – Cobalt.”

    While this is certainly true for the mainstream, readers of our blog may be familiar with Cobalt’s critical mineral status.

    In 2011, it was one of only four minerals to appear on all three then-published lists of critical metals: the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Strategy list, the American Physical Society’s Panel on Public Affairs & Materials Research Society’s list of Energy Critical Elements, and the European Commission’s Critical Raw Materials list.

    We pointed out at the time that with its applications in industrial and various critical defense applications, and in light of the fact that more than 50% of the world’s Cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – hardly a reliable trading partner – it came as no surprise when Cobalt also took a top tier spot in the American Resources Risk Pyramid, a risk screen for metals and minerals used in U.S. defense applications we created in 2012.

    According to USGS data, the U.S. is home to significant Cobalt deposits, but our import dependency currently stands at 75 percent.

    But as Robin Bromby points out, the supply situation has deteriorated with the fall in copper and nickel prices, the metals that are mined with cobalt as a by-product. He explains:

    “According to Formation Metals, demand growth for cobalt is running at 5.4% a year but supply growth is running at just 2.4%. Cobalt is expected to go into deficit this year; Formation expects mine closures and other factors to mean global output will decline 11% this year. (The biggest threat may be that the nickel prices stay depressed, which will put pressure on nickel laterite mines around the world, and therefore further reduce cobalt by-product.)”

    And, as John Petersen puts it bluntly, this will have consequences for the Lithium-Ion battery industry:

    “In my view the battery industry is careening toward a natural resource cliff at 120 mph while fiddling with the touch-screen and tweeting about its unlimited potential. The supply side of the cobalt equation is entirely dependent on global demand for nickel and copper. The demand side of the cobalt equation includes a rich variety of manufacturers that must have cobalt for products the world considers essential. 

    Whenever increasing demand crosses swords with inflexible supply, the inevitable outcomes are chronic shortages and substantially higher mineral prices.”

    So if Cobalt isn’t on your critical (tech) minerals list yet, the time to put it on your radar is now.

  • Is Lithium the New Black?

    At a time when mineral commodities have been slumping, one material is proving to be the exception to the rule, leading many to hail lithium as “a rare bright spot for miners, amid cratering prices of raw materials tied to heavy industry such as iron ore to coal.”  Via our friend Simon Moores, managing director [...]
  • U.S. Mineral Resource Dependency Continues to Spell Trouble

    For children, it’s the arrival of the first snow each year – for policy wonks, it’s the release of an annual study.  Whereas kids run to check the window multiple times a day once snow has been forecast, policy wonks continuously check for updates on the release of that study when it’s that time of [...]
  • USGS Rings Alarm Bell: United States’ Mineral Resource Dependencies Have Increased Drastically

    Without fanfare, and largely unnoticed at a time when all eyes in our nation’s political circles are on Iowa, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has released a report that should be required reading for all our policy makers. Analyzing data collected from 1954 through 2014 for more than 90 non-fuel mineral commodities from more [...]
  • Critical mineral Cobalt to become even more indispensable?

    New research from Swiss scientists indicates that Cobalt’s applications in solar technology may spark a surge in demand. While it is certainly not as visible in the news as the oft-discussed Rare Earths, the fact that Cobalt has to be considered a critical mineral is not a secret. In 2011, it was one of only [...]
  • Too little, too late? The West’s response to China’s REE stranglehold

    In an effort to challenge China’s near-total supply monopoly and the geopolitical power play that came with it, countries around the world have taken steps to seek alternative sources of supply. With new production coming online in the U.S. and Australia in recent years, along with small-scale production in India, U.S. Geological Survey figures document [...]
  • Tellurium – a critical mineral to be watched

    In her latest piece for ProEdgeWire, Robin Bromby suggests that Tellurium may well be the newest critical metal. Citing two “throwaway lines” from recent reports and media reporting which indicate increased demand for the metal, Bromby goes on to give reasons why Tellurium should be placed on observers’ critical metals watch lists: “Tellurium is vital [...]
  • Parnell Administration makes strides to implement resource strategy for Alaska

    Alaska Attorney General Daniel S. Sullivan gives an account of the state of the Parnell Administration’s five-part strategy to support the mining industry in a column for Petroleum News. This strategy, which was unveiled at the September 2011 Strategic and Critical Minerals Summit, comprises the following components: Undertaking a statewide assessment of strategic minerals; Providing [...]
  • Waiting for DoD: What does the Pentagon think of our rare earths vulnerability?

    Inquiring Congressional minds want to know — or at least the Congressional mind belonging to Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), co-chair (with Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman) of the newly-formed Rare Earths Caucus. During Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s House Armed testimony this week, Cong. Johnson seized the opportunity to ask where things stood with the Pentagon’s report [...]