It may not make headlines as much as some of its U.S. Government Critical Minerals List peers, especially the battery criticals lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese, and as such you may not have heard much about it — but antimony has entered the spotlight and has garnered the attention of Pentagon planners.
After receiving two grants from the U.S. Department of Defense Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to the tune of $200,000 to study the domestic production of military-grade antimony trisulfide in the context of its Stibnite Gold Project in Idaho in September 2022, mining company Perpetua Resources Corp. was awarded $24.8 million to complete environmental and engineering studies to obtain a Final Economic Impact Statement, a Final Record of Decision, and other ancillary permits on December 19, 2022.
The $24.8 award was made through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Industrial Base Policy’s Defense Production Act (DPA) Investments program and the Air Force Executive Agent.
Acknowledging the growing national security implications of rising critical minerals demand, the Department of Defense in recent months has stepped up its efforts to secure its supply chains, and the DPA Investments Program award to Perpetua Resources Inc. is the first critical minerals award using Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations.
Why would, as InvestorIntel’s Dean Bristol phrased it, the Department of Defense start the “Invest in Critical Minerals Strategy with the letter ‘A’”?
There is good reason.
“Antimony trisulfide is essential to national defense as a key component for munitions and primers used in every branch of the armed services. Additionally, every military uniform is coated with antimony to provide fire protection and minimize infrared detection. It is also a useful material for the energy transition as a glass clarifier in solar panels or as a metal strengthener to wind turbine components.
More recently, antimony is gaining recognition as a battery metal for its role in liquid metal battery technology. Yet, the U.S. has no domestic antimony production at present. Even more challenging, roughly 90% of global antimony production is controlled by China, Russia, and Tajikistan. Not exactly, the names you want at the top of your list of a ‘must have’ commodity.”
Halimah Najieb-Locke, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Resilience put it in broader terms in the official DoD award announcement, stating that “[t]he Department’s DPA Investments Program is delivering on its core mission to restore domestic industrial capabilities essential to the national defense by enabling the warfighter,”and adding that “[t]his action reinforces the Administration’s goals to increase the resilience of our critical mineral supply chains while deterring adversarial aggression.”
As the Pentagon points out, Perpetua’s “Stibnite Gold Project” produced antimony trisulfide for the defense industrial base during World War II and the Korean War. Operations were abandoned in the mid 1950s. Recognized as the “sole domestic geologic reserve of antimony that can meet Department of Defense (DoD) requirements,” the Stibnite Gold Project, according to Bristol, “ is designed to apply a modern, responsible mining approach to restore an abandoned mine site and produce both gold and the only mined source of antimony in the United States.”
In keeping with the mining industry’s current efforts to sustainably green our future, the Project will “be powered by the lowest carbon emissions grid in the nation” and will supply a portion of the antimony produced at the site to U.S.-based Ambri, a company which has developed an antimony-based, low-cost liquid metal battery for the energy storage market.
In light of the increasingly volatile geopolitical global landscape, it is reasonable to expect a stronger focus on the national security implications of mineral resource security on the part of U.S. stakeholders in the coming months. ARPN will be keeping tabs on U.S. government awards to strengthen critical mineral supply chains for our national defense sector, as well as the ones underpinning our economic wellbeing and green energy future as they are announced.