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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • DoE Chapter of 100-Day Supply Chain Report Calls for Immediate Investment in “Scaling up a Secure, Diversified Supply Chain for High-Capacity Batteries Here at Home”

    The Biden Administration made clear early on that it is committed to pursuing a low-carbon energy future, and battery technology is a key driver underpinning the shift away from fossil fuels. Just a few weeks ago, when touting his infrastructure package at Ford’s electric vehicle plant in Dearborn, President Joe Biden declared: “The future of the auto industry is electric. There’s no turning back.”

    Thus, it came as no surprise that President Biden’s February 2021 executive order launching a 100-day review of supply chain vulnerabilities for four key products targeted advanced batteries. The Department of Energy has now completed its review, with the findings released last week as part of a comprehensive 100-Day Supply Chain Report.

    As DoE points out:

    “Advanced, high-capacity batteries play an integral role in 21st-century technologies that are critical to the clean energy transition and national security capabilities around the world—from electric vehicles, to stationary energy storage, to defense applications. Demand for these products is set to grow as supply chain constraints, geopolitical and economic competition, and other vulnerabilities are increasing as well.”

    In its report chapter, DoE notes that

    “The rationale for supporting the U.S. supply chain now is clear: demand for EVs and energy storage is increasing, investors are increasing investment in the clean economy, and the pandemic has underscored the fragility of some U.S. supply chains. China and the European Union (EU) – in contrast to the U.S. approach – have developed and deployed ambitious government-led industrial policies that are supporting their success across the battery supply chain. China has also moved beyond conventional policy support with practices involving questionable environmental policies, price distortion through state-run enterprises to minimize competition, and large subsidies throughout the battery supply chain.”

    In other words, as ARPN expert panel member and Benchmark Mineral Intelligence managing director Simon Moores told members of Congress a while back:

    “We are in the midst of a global battery arms race.”

    Moores had told members of Congress that “[i]t is not too late for the US [to secure global supply chains post-COVID] but action is needed now.” — a sentiment DoE echoes in its report chapter:

    “However, the opportunity for the United States to secure a leading position in the global battery market is still within reach if the Federal Government takes swift and coordinated action.”

    While less explicit about the “all of the above” approach than the Department of Defense, DoE notes that:

    “With the global lithium battery market expected to grow by a factor of five to ten by 2030, it is imperative that the United States invests immediately in scaling up a secure, diversified supply chain for high-capacity batteries here at home. That means seizing a critical opportunity to increase domestic battery manufacturing while investing to scale the full lithium battery supply chain, including the sustainable sourcing and processing of the critical minerals used in battery production all the way through to end-of-life battery collection and recycling.

    Through strong collaboration across the federal government, with U.S. industrial stakeholders, the research community, and international allies, the U.S. must develop a durable strategy that invests and scales our potential industrial strengths to meet this challenge.”

    Among the Agency’s key recommendations for immediate and future action to strengthen the domestic advanced battery supply chain are:

      • Strengthening U.S. manufacturing requirements in federally-funded grants, cooperative agreements, and research and development (R&D) contracts.
      • Procuring stationary battery storage.
      • Providing financing to the advanced battery supply chain for electric vehicles.
      • Releasing the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries by the Federal Consortium on Advanced Batteries (FCAB).
      • For Congress to catalyze private capital with new federal grant programs to support battery cell and pack manufacturing.
      • The electrification of the nation’s school bus fleet, and the acceleration of the electrification of the nation’s transit bus fleet.
      • Providing consumer rebates and tax incentives to spur consumer adoption of EVs.
      • Investing in the production of high-capacity batteries and products that use these batteries to support good-paying, union jobs.

    Developing strong environmental review permitting practices for the extraction of critical minerals.

    Under the sub-head “Mapping the Supply Chain,” while the Department zeroed in on the usual suspects — notably Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite, Manganese — all of which were officially deemed critical on the U.S. Government’s official 2018 Critical Minerals list — DoE also prominently features Nickel and Copper. For Nickel, DoE even notes that “if there are opportunities for the U.S. to target one part of the battery supply chain, this would likely be the most critical to provide short- and medium-term supply chain stability.”

    Which would make Nickel the most critical “non-Critical” – a status consistent with the word cloud we created based on the number of 100-Day Report mentions (footnotes included) of the metals and minerals that made the official U.S. Government Critical Minerals List of 2018 — and the two that didn’t but should have (Nickel and Copper).

    As we noted in our post earlier this week, the Biden Administration is right to give prominence to Nickel and Copper in its strategy.

    After all, as Reuters’s Andy Home has pointed out,

    “There is no domestic nickel processing capacity outside a limited amount of by-product salt production.

    Yet this particular battery metal is the one likely to experience the most significant demand increase over the coming years, the report says, with ‘market indications that there could be a large shortage of Class 1 nickel in the next 3-7 years.’

    Indeed, with nickel content rising in battery cathode design, not having enough of the right kind of nickel ‘poses a supply chain risk for battery manufacturing globally, not just in the United States.’”

    And for Copper, the latest IEA report has estimated that — largely driven by the EV revolution — demand will be 25 times greater in 2040 than it was in 2020.

    Thankfully, there are opportunities to alleviate our supply chain vulnerabilities and to begin the “sustainable sourcing and processing” here at home, both for Nickel and Copper, as well as for the other battery “Criticals,” and many other metals and minerals.

    With the Administration having endorsed an “All of the Above” strategy to secure our supply chains “soup to nuts,” as Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm phrased it earlier this week, here’s hoping that this broad-based approach will find swift application via policy, programs and projects.

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  • The Road to “Building Back Better” is Paved with Critical Metals and Minerals

    Another round of COVID relief stimulus checks is hitting Americans’ bank account this week, and a vaccine schedule laid has been laid out.

    Time for the Administration and Congress to move on to the next key priority of the Biden Administration’s “Build Back Better” agenda: an economic recovery package that will “make historic investments in infrastructure, along with manufacturing, research and development and clean energy.”

    The BlueGreen Alliance, a national network of labor unions and and environmental organizations, is here for it:

    “Strengthening and retooling our manufacturing sector to make today’s and tomorrow’s clean technologies and all products in cleaner ways, and modernizing our crumbling infrastructure to be safer and more energy efficient will protect our air and water, boost efforts to end economic and racial injustice, and create good union jobs across our nation,” Jason Walsh, executive director for the organization that is calling for at least $4 trillion in federal investment, said last month.

    It may be popular in many circles, but it is going to be a massive undertaking — not just because it will require trillions of dollars in investment.

    To use an infrastructure metaphor, we have already established that the road to a lower-carbon future is paved with critical metals and minerals — lots of them, as evidenced by last year’s World Bank report entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” which estimated that production of metals and minerals underpinning the shift, such as the battery tech metals graphite, lithium and cobalt, would have to increase by nearly 500 percent by 2050 to meet global demand for renewable energy technology. To achieve the transition to a below 2°C pathway as outlined by the Paris Agreement, the deployment of wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage will require more than three billion tons of minerals and metals.

    A similar scenario unfolds for overhauling America’s infrastructure, which, undeniably, is crumbling. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card assigned a D+ to America’s roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure. With an update of the quadrennial report due this year, and infrastructure reform having fizzled after a first push during the Trump Administration, there is no reason to expect a better grade this time around.

    The sheer need for mainstay materials like steel and copper for construction and wiring or zinc for galvanization already make clear that we’re looking at another mineral intensive component of the Biden Agenda. But it’s not just old school transportation infrastructure that is in dire need of an overhaul.

    ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty made it clear in a piece for Investors Business Daily in the early days of the Trump Administration:

    “This isn’t your grandfather’s infrastructure. Bridges, tunnels and roads are just part of the story. Today, our infrastructure extends to the national power grid — currently a patchwork of lines, nodes and often antique switching towers we rely on to move energy to where we need it — to the internet itself, which has a physicality we easily overlook in this Age of the Cloud and Wireless. These systems, marvels that they are, come closer to tin-can-and-string contraptions than the modern version we would build if we began the work today.”

    With that, comes another layer of material inputs — lots of copper for wiring, but also battery tech metals like lithium, graphite, nickel and vanadium for energy storage, to name but a few.

    Meanwhile, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has highlighted our nation’s over-reliance on critical metals and minerals underpinning the above-referenced goals of a lower-carbon future coupled with a comprehensive infrastructure overhaul.

    How do we reconcile massive material inputs and sustainably “Building Back Better”? The challenge is big, and will likely require an “all-of-the-above” approach — but thankfully, as we previously pointed out, is “increasingly ‘recognizing [its] responsibility and trying to meet the increased expectations of consumers, society and governments” to contribute towards the push towards a greener energy future.’ In its growing efforts to do so, it is harnessing “advances in materials science and technology to meet the challenge of restoring a balance between mining and environmental protection.”

    As Washington D.C. delves into part two of President Biden’s “Build Back Better,” agenda, we will continue to highlight initiatives by mining companies to “close the loop,” 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 — as we have done in the past (take a look here and here).

    Stay tuned for the next roundup.

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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 [...]
  • Copper’s Anti-Microbial Properties Strike Again: Another Possible Breakthrough in the Fight to Stop Coronavirus Surface Transmission

    The ongoing coronavirus pandemic may derailed public life as we know it, but it has not slowed the pace at which the materials science revolution is yielding research breakthroughs. Whether it’s the development of vaccines, rapid tests, new treatment methods or novel materials for personal protective equipment (PPE) at neck-breaking speeds – we’re seeing innovation [...]
  • Copper in the Fight against Coronavirus, Infectious Diseases: Vancouver Installs Anti-Microbial Copper Surfaces in Public Transit System

    Amidst election chaos and surging coronavirus case numbers, we got a piece of good news early this week when pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a vaccine candidate they had developed was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in study participants in their first interim efficacy analysis. Great news indeed [...]
  • Materials Science Revolution in the Fight against COVID — Copper Continues to Lead the Charge

    Copper is arguably one of the key mainstay metals and building blocks of modern society.  However, in recent years — and most certainly over the past few months as the coronavirus pandemic has spanned the globe, its antimicrobial properties — known and appreciated already by the Ancients — have re-entered the spotlight. Reports of novel [...]
  • State Department Hopeful More Nations Will Join Energy Resource Governance Initiative in the Wake of COVID

    ***posted by Daniel McGroarty*** As demand for renewable energy continues to grow despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of State hopes to expand the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) – an initiative launched last year by the United States and joined by ten other countries, including Canada, Australia and Brazil – aimed at improving supply chain security [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Copper at the Frontlines – Hong Kong to Distribute Face Masks Containing Copper to Its Citizens

    Known and appreciated already by the Ancients for its antimicrobial properties, Copper has recently entered into the discourse over how to fight the current coronavirus outbreak and future pandemics.   A case in point is a new Assembly bill in New York, which seeks to reduce the spread of infection by requiring all new construction [...]

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