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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Wilson Center Embraces All-of-the-Above Multidimensional Strategy for Supply Chain Security, Calling for “Mosaic Approach” in New Study

    In early October, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars announced the release of a new report entitled “The Mosaic Approach: a Multidimensional Strategy for Strengthening America’s Critical Minerals Supply Chain.” 

    According to Duncan Wood, Vice President of Strategy and New Initiatives at the Wilson Center and one of the report’s co-authors, “[the] paper reflects the dialogue sustained by a high-level group of stakeholders in the summer of 2021 and argues that the United States must take a number of key steps to make the critical minerals supply chain more resilient. (…) These minerals are vital for the energy transition and for the United States’ geopolitical ambitions.”

    The report’s authors call for a “Mosaic Approach,” to our nation’s critical mineral resource woes — involving action by both the private sector and the government at the national and international levels.

    If the overall thrust of the report sounds familiar to followers of ARPN, that is is because it is.  ARPN has long called for the U.S. to embrace a variant of the “all-of-the-above” strategy we’ve come to know from energy policy discourse.

    This — in the context of strengthening U.S. supply chains — would mean a focus on new mining, recycling and reclamation of new minerals from old mine tailings both domestically and within the context of our relationships with our closest allies, as well as building out and leveraging domestic and allied processing capabilities — like filling in the pieces of a mosaic.

    While much of the current discourse on strengthening critical mineral supply chains takes place in the context of the accelerating green energy transition focusing on Cobalt, Lithium and the Rare Earths, the Wilson Center report highlights the importance of the more traditional mainstay metals of Copper and Nickel:

    “Nickel and copper are two other metals integral to the global energy transition and national security. Copper production is dominated by Chile followed by Peru, China, the United States, and the DRC. Copper and copper alloys are utilized in building and infrastructure projects. Additionally, copper’s conductivity makes it a key mineral for electrical and electronic products. Copper is essential for anode current collection, cell wiring, and for EV charging infrastructure. Due to the importance of electrification to meet global environmental sustainability goals, copper is a strategic and important resource.

    Nearly 80% of global nickel is used to produce super alloys and strong materials, such as stainless steel. The amount of nickel used for battery manufacturing is quickly increasing. The largest nickel producing countries in the world are Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific, and Canada. The U.S. is home to only one nickel-producing mine, located in Michigan. Nearly all of U.S. produced nickel is exported abroad for further processing and refinement. Polymetallic nodules on the ocean floor represent a significant domestic opportunity for increasing U.S. supplies of nickel, with the added bonus that they also contain cobalt and manganese.”

    The charts featured in the Wilson Center report’s chapter on “identifying the weaknesses in the CMSC” calling out three key vulnerabilities (challenges of rising demand, global competition with China and governance challenges), underscore that “the United States does not hold an advantage in geographic concentration of critical minerals” – a timely reminder that developing domestic resources must be augmented by cooperation with our allies.

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    The authors conclude:

    “Central to all of these endeavors will be the ongoing cooperation between the U.S. government and the private sector. Stakeholder dialogue is an absolute necessity if the attempts to make America’s critical minerals supply chains more resilient are to be effective. Working with the market rather than against it, harnessing the potential of American enterprise and innovation, and joining with our allies around the world will provide the U.S. with the tools it needs to address the China challenge and to meet its climate ambitions.”

    To strengthen domestic manufacturing and national security, we must build out secure and reliable supply chains for all materials underpinning 21st Century technology – both the tech metals and mainstay metals — and address vulnerabilities all along the value chain, from mining to processing and manufacturing.  The Wilson Center report is the latest to call on Congress and the Administration to put in place a comprehensive supply chain policy, anchored in the critical minerals and metals that provide form and function to our modern technology.

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  • “Undoubtedly Good News for Industrial Metals” – a Look at the Senate-passed Infrastructure Package

    In a recent piece for Reuters, columnist Andy Home unpacks the U.S. Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure package.   While the bill has yet to make it through the U.S. House of Representatives and a likely conference committee, it is worth taking a look at what its passage could mean for the critical minerals sector.

    According to Home, the $1 trillion package, as passed by the Senate, “is undoubtedly good news for industrial metals,” as more funding for highway and railway systems as well as power grid upgrades “will mean more demand for steel, copper, and aluminium [as they say in the UK].”

    He adds that “when it comes to battery metals and critical minerals, the bipartisan bill is as much about boosting domestic supply as demand,” and its provisions mark a “broader investment drive across the full length of the metallic supply chain.”

    Home highlights the following provisions:

    • Building on the Department of Energy’s R&D efforts across the REE spectrum ranging form primary processing to recycling, the bill “hardens the commitment with a $140 million grant to build a facility ‘to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of a full-scale integrated rare earth element extraction and separation facility and refinery’” in the context of a public-private partnership.
    • The bill also earmarks $100 million annually for through 2024 for critical mineral development, processing and recycling, with a minimum of 30% designated for recycling projects.
    • U.S.-based projects will be prioritized and no project may export to a “foreign entity of concern.”
    • While the bill only allocates $7.5 billion for EV battery charging, Home says “the direction of electric travel is clear,” with President Biden having signed his executive order stipulating that 50% of all domestic new vehicle sales by 2030 should be EV battery powered.
    • To address rising demand for battery tech metals, the bill designates $3 billion for processing, and an additional $3billion for battery manufacturing projects.
    • Grants in this context will be only be awarded to applicants demonstrating “U.S. ownership, North American intellectual property rights and a commitment not to ‘use battery material supplied by or originating from a foreign entity of concern.’”
    • Acknowledging that Federal permitting process has served as “an impediment to mineral production and the mineral security of the United States,” the bill introduces performance metrics for approving critical mineral mines.

    Home sees a challenge in fast-tracking Federal permitting in light of the “growing push-back against ‘dirty’ mining.”  However, he sees an opportunity to bridge this “green-green divide” in new efforts by mining companies to re-think mine “waste,” — and essentially harness gateway/co-product metal relationships.

    He points to Rio Tinto’s Scandium operations in Quebec, Canada, as an example:

    “Companies such as Rio Tinto are now going back to re-examine what they’ve been throwing away. In the case of the company’s Canadian titanium business, they found scandium, designated a critical mineral by both the United States and Europe.

    A relatively modest $6 million investment will produce three tonnes per year of scandium oxide – around 20% of the global market – without the need for any additional mining.”

    As Home points out, the infrastructure bill embraces the “whole-concept” or “total mining” concept, instructing USGS to comprehensively survey national minerals resources, “using a whole ore body approach rather than a single commodity approach, to emphasize all of the recoverable critical minerals in a given surface or subsurface deposit”.

    Home sees provisions calling for USGS to “map and collect data for areas containing mine waste to increase understanding of above-ground critical mineral resources in previously disturbed areas,” as the ones that can help reconcile the “green-green” issue, because “building new mines will remain a headache for critical minerals planners everywhere so going back to the stuff already mined makes a lot of sense.”

    While changes to the bill must be reasonably expected in the coming weeks, the general thrust is clear, and it is encouraging to see that lawmakers are acknowledging and addressing the importance of critical minerals and the urgency of associated supply chain challenges.

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  • Make Haste Slowly – The Inherent Risks of an Electrification of the U.S. Military: Material Inputs, Geopolitics and Cyberattacks

    As governments around the globe continue to push towards carbon neutrality, Alan Howard and Brenda Shaffer, faculty members at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, warn against the hidden dangers of the — rushed — electrification of the U.S. military in a new piece for Foreign Policy. Against the backdrop of the Pentagon having commissioned studies [...]
  • House Armed Services Committee’s Bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force Releases Findings and Recommendations

    On the heels of the recently-released White House 100-Day Supply Chain report, momentum to strengthen U.S. supply chains is building. On July 22, 2021 the House Armed Services Committee’s bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force, chartered in March of 2021 to “review the industrial base supply chain to identify and analyze threats and vulnerabilities,” released its [...]
  • The Mineral Intensity of a Carbon-Neutral Future – A Look at Copper

    Amidst the global push towards carbon neutrality, “Critical Minerals” has become a buzzword.  As the green energy transition has gone mainstream and electric vehicles and renewable energy sources dominate the news cycle, so has talk about growing demand for some of the specialized materials underpinning this shift — most notably the Rare Earths, and the battery [...]
  • “Supply Chain” Begins With “Supply:” Department of Commerce 100-Day Report Chapter on Complex Semiconductor Supply Chain

    Current news coverage may have you believe that when it comes to critical minerals, all we’re talking about is Rare Earths and battery tech metals, such as Lithium, Cobalt, Manganese, Nickel and Graphite. However, while certainly extremely important for 21st Century technology, these materials and the sectors in which they find key applications only represent [...]
  • Copper, Lithium, Antimony and Tellurium: Minerals Make Life Features Four Minerals as “Key to an Advanced Energy Future”

    As the number of countries pledging to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century (or soon thereafter) continues to grow, and governments and other stakeholders work to transform the energy systems underpinning our economies, demand for critical metals and minerals is soaring. The rapidly-accelerating adoption of EV battery technology, along with plans [...]
  • Caught in the “Green Dilemma” of Securing Critical Mineral Resource Supply Chains

    A few months ago, when the Biden Administration stepped up its efforts to promote its ambitious renewable energy agenda, Forbes analyst David Blackmon suggested that we might be about to “witness a replay of the politics of the Shale Revolution, only this time those politics will be playing out around the mining of the country’s [...]
  • DoD Chapter of 100-Day Supply Chain Report Acknowledges Gateway/Co-product Challenge

    Friends of ARPN will know that “much of our work is grounded in a conviction that the Technology Age is driven by a revolution in materials science – a rapidly accelerating effort that is unlocking the potential of scores of metals and minerals long known but seldom utilized in our tools and technologies.” In this [...]
  • Independence Day 2021 — Towards Greater Mineral Resource Independence?

    After a long wait — with many parades and fireworks honor the men and women who have fought for, and continue to safeguard our freedoms canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic — Independence Day 2021 is upon us. With many of the pandemic-related restrictions lifted, celebrating our freedoms this year feels a little [...]

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