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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The Mining Industry is Ready to Strengthen American Supply Chains

    With the release of its 100-Day Supply Chain Report, the Biden Administration has sent a strong signal that it is serious about stepping up U.S. efforts to secure domestic supply chains — especially for the four areas covered by the report: semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging; pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), and, of particular interest for followers of ARPN, large capacity batteries, as well as critical minerals and materials.

    In its commitment to ensure a stable supply for these tech sectors, the Administration has embraced an “all of the above” approach to critical mineral security, which spans all segments of the supply chain and a broad array of strategies. In the run-up to the Report’s release, there were news reports that the Administration would focus on expanding domestic processing and rely on allies and other nations to mine the minerals and metals. However, both the 100-Day Supply Chain Assessment and subsequent statements by Administration officials like Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm have made clear that the “all of the above” referenced by DoD, or the “wrap-around strategy” Sec. Granholm has touted, would not only include recycling and substitution as well as partnering with close allies such as Canada and Australia, but also new domestic mining — with the caveat that it be “sustainable” and “responsible.”

    This is good news for the mining sector, which has recognized “[its] responsibility and trying to meet the increased expectations of consumers, society and governments” to contribute towards the push towards a greener energy future and has increasingly been harnessing advances in materials science and technology to meet the challenge of developing a domestic critical minerals supply while maintaining and advancing responsible mining practices.

    Over the past few months, ARPN has been highlighting initiatives by mining companies to sustainably green the future, ranging from overhauling supply chain policies to ensure suppliers conform to certain environmental and social standards, to incorporating renewable power sources into their operations to offset some of the carbon costs of resource development. With the 100 Day Report focusing a new level of attention on critical minerals supply chains, ARPN is spotlighting several new initiatives across the entire spectrum of the supply chain, from upstream to downstream.

    - DoE has provided funding for BHE Renewables’s lithium extraction efforts from geothermal brine at its operations in the Salton Sea, California, where the almost $15 million award will go towards constructing a demonstration plant to convert lithium chloride into battery-grade lithium hydroxide.

    - U.S.-based precious metals producing and processing group Comstock Mining has partnered with others to “deploy novel [clean energy] technologies for gold processing and extraction across its portfolio” and aims to “efficiently reprocess and renew silver and other strategic metals as part of a ‘clean energy transition’ towards ‘climate-smart mining.’”

    - Having developed a patented process for recycling cathode materials from spent lithium-ion batteries, Canada-based American Manganese, an industry member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI), is working with U.S. National Labs to “promote a circular economy for the lithium-ion battery supply chain and set the standard for high recovery and purity of cathode materials from spent lithium-ion batteries.” American Manganese’s battery recycling work even received a “shout-out” in the White House’s 100 Day Report.

    - Rio Tinto has announced plans to construct a new plant to recover tellurium, a co-product of copper refining and a material critical to the green energy transition, at its Kennecott mine in the Utah. By harnessing an innovative extraction processes at an already existing mine site, the company is able to reduce waste while adhering to federal and state environmental standards and minimizing the carbon footprint of the operation – achievements that align well with the 100 Day Report’s objectives.

    - Epiroc, a Europe-based developer/producer of drill rigs, rock excavation and construction equipment, has updated its North American underground mining market strategy to reflect “increasing demand for electrification solutions that deliver savings on maintenance, ventilation and cooling while lessening environmental footprint.” The strategy seeks to support North American mining operations through battery-electric, zero-emission equipment.

    - Clean energy start-up Heliogen has announced a partnership with Rio Tinto to deploy its solar technology at the the largest open pit mine in California, Rio Tinto’s borate project in Boron, California. Using artificial intelligence and computer-vision-controlled mirrors, Heliogen will harness the power of the sun to power operations while cutting the project’s carbon footprint.

    - And more is happening at Boron: Drawing on its longstanding partnership with DOE’s CMI, Rio Tinto has begun producing battery-grade lithium at a demonstration plant located at the operation using a new extraction process developed on-site. As part of the company’s full-value mining strategy, the global miner seeks to recover lithium out of waste piles stemming from more than 90 years of mining at the site.

    - Barrick Gold Corporation is looking to reprocess tailings at the currently-closed Golden Sunlight Mine in Montana. The project would focus on removing and concentrating sulfur (iron pyrite) —a source of potential water pollution from the mine site. The sulfur would then be sold to and used in gold production by Nevada Gold Mines (NGM). According to Barrick company statements, the combination of rehabilitation with value creation would serve as a model for Barrick’s future mine closures.

    Of course, more can and should be done. But, as Secretary Granholm told U.S. Senators last week:

    “This is the United States. We can mine in a responsible way. And many places are doing it. And there are some places where there are more challenges, but we can do this.”

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  • “Sustainably Greening the Future” Roundup – Mining and Advanced Materials Industries Harness Materials Science in Green Energy Shift

    The Biden Administration has shifted focus to its next major legislative priority in the context of the president’s “Build Back Better” agenda — a multi-trillion dollar jobs and infrastructure package. Billed as a plan to make the economy more productive through investments in infrastructure, education, work force development and fighting climate change, the package will likely dominate the agenda in Washington, DC for the next months.

    Tackling America’s crumbling infrastructure will be a behemoth challenge, as we’re not just talking about railways, roads, tunnels and bridges. (Read ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty’s piece on infrastructure reform from a while back here.) But the challenge is even bigger — not only are partisan battle lines drawn, the package will have to reconcile massive needs for material inputs underpinning infrastructure and clean energy investments with inherent geopolitical and sustainability implications.

    As policy makers gear up to reconcile the issues we already outlined in more detail here and here — the mining industry, recognizing the growing demand for sustainable mining processes that allow for the responsible extraction of critical minerals in North America, has embraced and harnessed advances in materials science and technology to strike a greater balance between mining and environmental protections.

    We’ve already highlighted a series of initiatives by mining companies to significantly reduce carbon emissions or even “close the loop,” (take a look here and here) but more are underway, so it’s time for another “Sustainably Greening the Future” Roundup.

    Suppliers of mining operations are also doing their part. As the Biden Administration has already made clear that it will look to increase cooperation with Canada in its quest to secure critical mineral resource supply chains, we’ll include both U.S. and Canadian initiatives in this iteration:

    • British Columbia-based Teck Resources Ltd., Canada’s largest metallurgical coal producer, has announced plans to reduce the carbon intensity of its operations by 33% over the next decade and is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050 by using more clean energy in its operations.
    • Having developed a patented process for recycling cathode materials from spent lithium-ion batteries, Canada-based American Manganese, an industry member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI), is working with U.S. National Labs to “promote a circular economy for the lithium-ion battery supply chain and set the standard for high recovery and purity of cathode materials from spent lithium-ion batteries.”
    • U.S.-based precious metals producing and processing group Comstock Mining has partnered with others to “deploy novel [clean energy] technologies for gold processing and extraction across its portfolio” and aims to “efficiently reprocess and renew silver and other strategic metals as part of a ‘clean energy transition’ towards ‘climate-smart mining.’”
    • Rio Tinto has announced plans to construct a new plant to recover tellurium, a co-product of copper refining and a material critical to the green energy transition, at its Kennecott mine in the Utah. By harnessing an innovative extraction processes at an already existing mine site, the company is able to reduce waste while adhering to federal and state environmental standards and minimizing the carbon footprint of the operation.
    • Epiroc, a Europe-based developer/producer of drill rigs, rock excavation and construction equipment, has updated its North American underground mining market strategy to reflect “increasing demand for electrification solutions that deliver savings on maintenance, ventilation and cooling while lessening environmental footprint.” The strategy seeks to support North American mining operations through battery-electric, zero-emission equipment.
    • Clean energy start-up Heliogen has announced a partnership with Rio Tinto to deploy its solar technology at the the largest open pit mine in California, Rio Tinto’s borate project in Boron, California. Using artificial intelligence and computer-vision-controlled mirrors, Heliogen will harness the power of the sun to power operations while cutting the project’s carbon foot print.
    • And more is happening at Boron: Rio Tinto has begun producing battery-grade lithium at a demonstration plant located at the operation using a new extraction process developed on-site. As part of the company’s full-value mining strategy, the global miner seeks to recover lithium out of waste piles stemming from more than 90 years of mining at the site.
    • Barrick Gold Corporation is looking to reprocess tailings at the currently-closed Golden Sunlight Mine in Montana. The project would focus on removing and concentrating sulfur (iron pyrite) —a source of potential water pollution from the mine site. The sulfur would then be sold to and used in gold production by Nevada Gold Mines (NGM). According to Barrick company statements, the combination of rehabilitation with value creation, would serve as a model for Barrick’s future mine closures.

    There is a lot of activity here — and we’ll continue to feature these initiatives going forward.

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  • Sustainably Greening the Future – How the Mineral Resource Sector Seeks to Do Its Part to Close the Loop

    Merely days after assuming office U.S. President Joe Biden has already signed a series of executive orders on climate change and related policy areas, marking an expected shift in priorities from the preceding Administration. But even before, and irrespective of where you come down on the political spectrum, there was no denying that we find [...]
  • 2020 – A Watershed Year for Resource Policy

    ARPN’s Year in Review — a Cursory Review of the United States’ Critical Mineral Resource Challenge in 2020 It feels like just a few weeks ago many of us quipped that April 2020 seemed like the longest month in history, yet here we are: It’s mid-December, and we have almost made it through 2020. It’s [...]
  • Critical Minerals Will be Key to “Building Back Better”

    The dust begins to settle over the 2020 presidential elections, and President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are busy lining up their policy and personnel priorities. As the National Mining Association’s Rich Nolan writes in a new piece for Inside Sources, “much of their agenda rests on a foundation provided by the nation’s [...]
  • Is it Time for a GigaMine? Metal Tech News’s Lasley on the Prospect of Tesla GigaMines

    Earlier this month, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of tech giant Tesla, made headlines with his call on global mining companies to boost production of nickel, a key component in EV battery technology. “Any mining companies out there … wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel,” he said, adding “Tesla will give [...]
  • Experts to U.S. Senators: It’s “Not Too Late for the U.S.” to Secure Mineral Supply Chains Post-COVID, “But Action is Needed Now”

    In a timely hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, witnesses discussed the urgency of securing U.S. mineral supply chains in a post-COVID context.  Committee Chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has long been an advocate of comprehensive mineral resource policy reform set the stage arguing that “[t]he pandemic has brought [...]
  • Demand for Certain Metals and Minerals to Increase by Nearly 500%, According to New World Bank Study

    At ARPN, we have long argued that the current push towards a lower-carbon future is not possible without mining, as green energy technology relies heavily on a score of critical metals and minerals. The World Bank’s latest report, entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” published earlier this week in the context of the [...]
  • The Future of Mining is “Climate Smart”

    In the latest issue of Metal Tech News, a new publication we recently featured, editor Shane Lasley zeroes in on opportunities offered by the World Bank’s Climate Smart Mining initiative. The initiative, which “supports a low-carbon transition where mining is climate-smart and value chains are sustainable and green,” kicked into high gear in May of [...]
  • 2019 in Review – Towards an “All-Of-The-Above” Approach in Mineral Resource Policy?

    We blinked, and 2020 is knocking on our doors. It’s been a busy year on many levels, and mineral resource policy is no exception. So without further ado, here’s our ARPN Year in Review. Where we began: In last year’s annual recap, we had labeled 2018 as a year of incremental progress, which had set [...]

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