-->
American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Through the Gateway: Molybdenum – “The Most Important Element You Yave Never Heard Of?”

    A writer for Gizmodo has dubbed it the “most important element you have never heard of.”  Writes Esther Inglis-Arkell:

    “Molybdenum, with its 42 protons and 54 neutrons, sits right in the middle of the periodic table being completely ignored. It’s not useless. (…) It just doesn’t have that indefinable sexiness about it.”

    Inglis-Arkell explains Molybdenum’s biochemical relevance:

    Taken up by plants from the soil, molybdenum “forms a crucial part of a little enzyme called sulfite oxidase. The enzyme breaks down incoming sulfites and turns them into useful food. Take away molybdenum, and the enzyme, and things get nasty. The lowest-level problem you can look forward to is a severe allergic reaction. Continued molybdenum deprivation causes uric acid to build up in the blood, which brings on horribly inflamed and painful joints. At it worst, molybdenum deficiency takes out the nervous system.”

    Definitely not good.  

    But there’s more to it. Like Rhenium, Molybdenum is essential for creating high-performance alloys used in jet turbines and other defense systems. It is also a critical component of alloyed materials used in water distribution systems, food handling and chemical processing equipment, automotive parts, gas transmission pipes, and heavy construction. As USGS has notedWithout molybdenum as an alloying metal, the superstrength steel used in heavy construction (such as in skyscrapers and bridges) would be more costly; in some instances, the increased weight of alternative materials with equivalent strengths would render construction unmanageable or even impossible.”

    The question of whether or not it is “the most important you’ve never heard of,” aside – Molybdenum’s importance cannot be dismissed. Luckily, the United States is in a good spot with regards to availability to meet domestic needs. 

    In fact, as Molybdenum, unlike its previously discussed Copper co-product peers, is actually a metal of which we are a net exporter, industry continues to seek to develop materials that could benefit from its hardening, strengthening and anti-corrosive properties.  The advent of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is just one example here.

    While we are fortunate to have an abundance of Molybdenum beneath our own soil, one should note that while there is some primary Molybdenum production, including at two mines in the United States, most of the Molybdenum we use is produced as a Copper co-product.   Thus, we should keep Molybdenum on our supply and demand radar, particularly as advances in materials science may increase demand. As USGS points out:

    “Short- to medium-term changes in copper prices can influence the availability of molybdenum. For example, copper mining activity may drop suddenly in response to reduced metal prices, which in turn reduces the total amount of molybdenum that is produced. Although primary molybdenum mines can fill this market gap between byproduct production and overall demand, they have a limited ability to increase their production rate to meet spikes in demand.” 

    Share
  • As Japan Retreats, US Dozes Off Again On Critical Minerals

    Over the course of the last few months, slumping prices have prompted Japanese companies to reassess their rare metals strategies and cancel cooperative agreements that were once considered a high priority.

    As Nikkei Asian Review reports, state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC) has cancelled a joint exploration contract for a tungsten mine in Australia, and chemical Showa Denko has announced plans to dissolve its China-based rare-earth magnet alloy-manufacturing and –selling subsidiary Baotou Show Rare Earth High-Tech New Material.

    The Japanese retreat is providing China, which is also putting out feelers regarding acquiring bankrupt American REE producer Molycorp after Japanese companies declined, with yet another opening to tighten its grip on the rare metals market.

    Says Rurika Imahashi, Nikkei staff writer:

    “Slowly but surely the market is being forged into an oligopoly. More than 100 rare-earth producers in China will be consolidated by June, leaving 90% of global supply in the hands of a mere six companies. Similar moves are also afoot in the antimony and other rare metals markets.”

    Imahashi’s observation regarding the consequences is spot on:

    “Concerns over supply may be waning due to falling prices, but stable supply could be at risk in the medium and long term.”

    Meanwhile, the United States appears to be dozing off again on the critical minerals front. While the USGS recently released a study showing that the U.S. reliance on foreign imports has increased significantly over the past 30 years, Congress has failed to pass legislation to facilitate exploration and development of domestic mineral resources for several years in a row.  Instead, like Buzz Lightyear — and in a sad commentary on the burdensome permitting process on the patch of Earth called the United States —  American lawmakers decided to look To Infinity and Beyond!, passing legislation allowing for the commercial extraction of minerals and other materials, including water from the moon and asteroids.

    Share
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]

Archives