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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

    Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – new kids on the block arrive in groups.

    Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, “much has been made of battery minerals, in particular lithium and cobalt. But graphite, one of three naturally occurring carbons on Earth, is often overlooked.” And with Graphite, comes its derivative, Graphene.

    While Graphite has indeed been flying under the radar, this may change, soon. With as much as 40 times the amount of Graphite in a Lithium-Ion battery as Lithium, demand for the Graphite may increase by an estimated 200% by 2020.  Add to that the fact that super-material Graphene, which is derived from Graphite, is now making an entry into the battery tech field, and demand may take off even more. Writes Lempriere:

    “Over the past eight years, an increasing number of potential uses for graphene have been explored, including its use in supercapacitors and as a membrane for filtration.

    Graphene is capable of transferring electricity 140 times faster than lithium, while being 100 times lighter than aluminium. This means it could increase the power density of a standard Li-ion battery by 45%.”

    As Lempriere outlines, a lack of standardization has so far held back the commercialization of Graphene. With the first Graphene characterization service launched in the United Kingdom in July of this year, this barrier may have been removed, and “a clear framework” could “ease sales of the commodity by ensuring purchase agreements are fair for both buyers ad sellers.”

    Meanwhile, the ongoing revolution in materials science is continuing to yield improvements in the processing of Graphite, thus making the material earn its stripes as a “critical mineral” – a designation the Graphite has earned in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

    According to USGS:

    “Advances in thermal technology and acid-leaching techniques that enable the production of higher purity graphite powders are likely to lead to development of new applications for graphite in high-technology fields. Such innovative refining techniques have enabled the use of improved graphite in carbon-graphite composites, electronics, foils, friction materials, and specialty lubricant applications. Flexible graphite product lines, such as graphoil (a thin graphite cloth), are likely to be the fastest growing market. Large-scale fuel-cell applications are being developed that could consume as much graphite as all other uses combined.”

    If these trend lines continue – and a look at the neck-breaking speed of the materials science revolution tells us there is a very good chance they will – the bottom line is that if Graphite and Graphene are not yet on your radar, they should be.

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  • Vanadium’s Time to Shine?

    Steve LeVine, Future Editor at Axios and Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council, has called it “one of the most confounding areas of research” and a “technology that, while invented more than two centuries ago, is still frustrating scientists.”   It is also one of the areas where one of the key growth industries – the electronic vehicle segment – is making massive investments to achieve breakthroughs: We’re talking about battery technology.

    Supply concerns for the materials underpinning this technology are increasingly forcing automakers and other industries relying on energy storage, such as utilities, to step up their efforts both boost the amount of energy batteries can store and diversify materials used to achieve these efficiencies.

    Lithium, Cobalt and Nickel have long been the shining stars of battery technology, but there is a new kid on the block – particularly in the area of stationary storage.

    Simon Moores, member of the ARPN panel of experts and Managing Director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, believes that Vanadium’s time to shine may have come.  Addressing attendees of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s World Tour in Melbourne Australia, Moores said that “if the vanadium market gets a number of key [mines] up and running quickly, vanadium flow could have its ‘lithium ion battery moment’ — its Elon Musk moment.”

    Traditionally known as an alloying component in various steels, where its strengthening properties come to bear, Vanadium has been used in the building and construction industry for a long time. Ferrovanadium alloys have also been used in protective military vehicles while a Titanium-Aluminum-Vanadium alloy is used in jet engines and high-speed aircraft.  While Vanadium flow battery technology has been around for a while, first-generation batteries were mired by inefficiencies ad costliness. Initial breakthroughs in 2011 increased storage capacity of Vanadium by 70 percent – and more R&D is continuing to yield further improvements. Vanadium flow battery technology today, however, is considered well established and commercially viable, leading Moores and his colleagues to estimate that by 2028, 50 percent of the “burgeoning stationary storage market will be lithium-ion, and 25 per cent vanadium flow batteries.”

    This emerging development, in turn, invites a theme that is very familiar for ARPN followers — the co-product challenge. As we have previously pointed out:

    “According to USGS, Vanadium [ a co-product of Aluminum ]  is at least as plentiful as Nickel and Zinc, at least in terms of its availability in the earth’s crust. However, it rarely occurs in deposits that can be economically mined for the element alone. Between 2009 and 2013, some co-product vanadium production occurred domestically (though not from Bauxite mining for Aluminum), but it has since been suspended. As a result, the United States is currently 100% import dependent for its domestic Vanadium needs – in spite of the fact that ‘domestic resources and secondary recovery are adequate to supply a large portion of domestic needs.’

    This once more begs the question – isn’t it time for a more comprehensive approach to mineral resource policy?”

    The inclusion of Vanadium on the Department of Interior’s list of 35 minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security was a logical first step. Now appropriate policy reforms must follow.

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  • “Critical Minerals Alaska” – North of 60 Mining News Publishes Series on Alaska’s Resource Potential

    Against the backdrop of an increased focus on critical minerals at the federal level, North of 60 Mining News — an Alaska-based trade publication covering mineral resource issues for Alaska, northern British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut — has started a new series of articles ARPN followers may wish to bookmark. As Lasley pointed [...]
  • Mamula & Moore on Mineral Resource Policy: Time for a Change in Strategy and Philosophy

    “Why is the United States reliant on China and Russia for strategic minerals when we have more of these valuable resources than both these nations combined?” Stephen Moore, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with Freedom Works, and ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, a geoscientist and adjunct scholar at the [...]
  • New USGS Mineral Resource Commodity Summaries Report – An Important Reminder to Keep Momentum Going for Policy Overhaul

    Without much fanfare, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released its annual Mineral Commodity Summaries report at the end of January. Followers of ARPN will know that we usually await the release of said study with somewhat bated breath. However, this year was slightly different, as the context in which to embed this year’s report [...]
  • Event Alert: Resources for Future Generations (#RFG2018) Conference

    We have barely taken down the Christmas decorations, but stores have their Valentine’s Day merchandise out, and we’re already halfway through January.  It may feel that way, but it’s really not to early to highlight an event coming up in June – Summer will be here before we know it. So mark your calendars, ladies [...]
  • AGI to Host Webinar on Critical Minerals

    Mark your calendars – the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) will host a timely webinar on critical mineral issues later this month. The webinar entitled “Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials” will be held on Friday, January 26, 2018, at 11:00am EST, and will “focus on U.S. and European Union (EU) efforts to gather information [...]
  • Member of ARPN Expert Panel Outlines Implications of Executive Order Targeting Critical Minerals

    Amidst the latest political drama, bomb cyclones and button size comparisons which are dominating the news cycle, you may have missed two great pieces of analysis by member of the ARPN panel of experts Jeff Green, president and founder of Washington, DC-based J.A. Green & Company – so we are highlighting them for you: In [...]
  • New Year’s Resolutions for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    If you’re one of nearly half of all Americans, you will have already made a few New Year’s resolutions for 2018.   Among the most popular are personal betterment goals like “losing weight,” and “exercising more.”  While we’re all for making personal resolutions, at ARPN, we’re more concerned with the goals our policy makers are [...]
  • Clear Your Holiday Reading List – USGS Releases “Critical Materials of the United States”

    Too much family? Too much rockin’ around the Christmas tree? If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and sit down with a good book, look no further – USGS has you covered. The agency has just released a new study entitled “Critical Minerals of the United States“ which [...]

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