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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 ourselves in the midst of a global green energy transition. At ARPN, we have long made the case that the current push towards a lower-carbon future is not possible without critical metals and minerals — lots of them.

    As the World Bank outlined last year, and as confirmed by various other studies, “the future energy system will be far more mineral and metal-intensive than it is today,” as Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Director of the Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines told members of Congress.

    The World Bank report, entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” published in the spring of 2020 estimated that production of metals and minerals like graphite, lithium and cobalt will 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.

    The renewed emphasis on shifting towards a lower carbon future will not only have to be reconciled with the above referenced facts, but also with the growing realization that as we push to reduce greenhouse gases, we can’t ignore the geopolitical challenges associated with the supply chains for the metals and minerals underpinning the green energy transition — a realization the urgency of which the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced.

    As entire supply chains are being overhauled, the mining and resource sector, which represents one of the most energy-intensive industries on the planet, 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. Thankfully, the industry can harness advances in materials science and technology to meet the challenge of restoring a balance between mining and environmental protection.

    Last year, we outlined several 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. (Take a look here.)

    Since then, many more steps have been taken by mining companies big and small, and we’re taking the opportunity to highlight several today:

    • As part of its push to pursue “closed-loop” solutions, in December of 2020, mining company Rio Tinto announced its plan to increase recycling capacity at its aluminum operations at Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, Canada. A $8.4 million project will involve the installation of a new remelt furnace to melt down aluminum cuttings from customers for use in rolling ingot production for packaging and automotive clients.
    • Chemistry giant BASF has announced a new “Circular Economy Program” in the context of which the company aims to process 250,000 metric tons of recycled and waste-based raw materials annually, replacing fossil raw materials. Specifically, BASF is developing a new chemical process to recover high-purity lithium from batteries with high yields.
    • Copper Miner Codelco has outlined a set of five sustainability commitments. Among them are the reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions by replacing all production and logistics equipment in underground mines with electrical equipment, reducing unit consumption of continental waters, and recycling 65% of industrial waste.
    • Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec has developed a sustainable process with a small environmental footprint to extract high purity scandium oxide from waste tailings in the titanium dioxide production process – obviating the need for additional mining for the sought-after material.
    • While delayed largely because of COVID, London-based miner Anglo American — as part of its FutureSmart Mining™ innovation program — is moving ahead with the deployment hydrogen-powered (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle or FCEV hybrid) large mining trucks, working in collaboration with global energy and energy services company ENGIE. A pilot truck is expected to be deployed in the first half of 2021 at the Mogalakwena platinum open pit mine in the north-western part of South Africa in Mokopane, Limpopo. If the technology proves successful, 400 mine-haul trucks of the company’s vehicle fleet could be rebuilt to use hydrogen fuel.
    • U.S. gold mining group Newmont in December 2020 announced a planned investment of US$500 million over the next five years into wind and solar technology to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. As part of the project, the company will study how to best inject solar, wind and energy storage projects into its operations and will work to develop new technologies.

    Of course, this list is only a small snapshot of what is happening in the resource sector as part of the push towards a circular economy, and we will continue to monitor and draw attention to innovative ways to sustainably greening the future going forward.

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  • 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 [...]
  • Against Backdrop of COVID-19, State Assembly Bill Calls for Use of Antimicrobial Copper in Public Construction

    Legislation introduced in the State Assembly of New York, a state that has been hit particularly hard by the current coronavirus pandemic, would require publicly funded construction projects to use antimicrobial copper. The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Marcy), would “require all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces [...]

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