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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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  • Green Energy Shift Requires a Revolution in Materials Science

    As the global push towards a carbon neutral future accelerates, it is also becoming increasingly clear that the green energy shift will be mineral intensive, as a score of critical metals and minerals underpin 21st Century green energy technology. It’s not too much to say that shifting green depends on a revolution in materials science.

    Acknowledging their responsibility, the mining sector and associated industries have made significant capital investments and have been harnessing the materials science revolution to meet increased expectations of consumers, society and governments to sustainably and responsibly support the shift.

    On a broader level, in a recent post, Seeking Alpha points to the European Copper Institute having found that the “copper industry reduced CO2 emissions by 60% from 1990 to 2020 by investing in efficiency and reducing energy consumption.”

    The post adds: “(…) the green initiatives have just started: nowadays, mining of ‘green’ metals (which are metals produced with renewable energy sources and sustainable practices) is a new way to address emissions in the sector,” and points to low-carbon aluminum produced using mostly renewable energy sources, as well as low-carbon nickel.

    Meanwhile, a significant disconnect persists in certain circles about both the importance of the mining industry in the green energy shift, and the strides companies have made to reduce their environmental impact. Overcoming that disconnect is the main reason ARPN continues to highlight specific sustainability initiatives in extractive and associated industries. These range 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 at our latest roundup here.)

    As Congress is weighing legislation that could bring significant changes for critical mineral resource policy, the time has come for another roundup:

    • U.S. miner Alcoa has partnered with Alumtek Minerals, a Brisbane, Australia-based company that has developed a a process to extract critical minerals including gallium, vanadium, hafnium and rare earths from bauxite tailings. Having received a grant from the Australian government, the companies will collaborate with a Western Australian government research hub in the hopes to advance the processing technology from proof of concept to full production.
    • As part of its full-value mining initiative, global miner Rio Tinto is also targeting waste tailings as a source for critical minerals and other useful consumer products. According to Bloomberg, the company is “currently figuring out ways to extract up to ten so-called critical minerals from copper waste at its mining facility in Utah,”  and in Australia, has partnered with the University of Queensland and Queensland Alumina to bioengineer bauxite residue known as ‘red mud’ into an eco-friendly plant-sustaining soil. Meanwhile, to reduce its carbon footprint, the company is looking to construct a brand new [additional] solar plant at is Weipa bauxite site, in Queensland, Australia. Contracting with energy supplier EDL, the company aims to triple North Queensland local solar power generation with the new plant.
    • According to Engineering and Mining Journal, “Rolls-Royce and Flanders Electric have agreed to develop a retrofit solution for hybridizing mining-class haul trucks with mtu [motor-and-turbine union] engines, batteries and hybrid control systems, and Flanders drive train solutions.” A recently-signed Memorandum of understanding between the two companies enables them to “offer a scalable retrofit kit for hybridizing mining trucks in a wide range of mining applications.”
    • In its efforts to operate more efficiently and sustainably, China-focused mine Silvercorp began constructing a one million tonne-per-year waste rock treatment plant which turns waste produced at its flagship Ying multi-mine project into aggregate. The company is further exploring the use of mine tailings in the manufacture of ceramic products.

    These examples provide just a single snapshot into sustainability initiatives underway at this point in time, but of course more can, should, and is being done. Count on ARPN to continue to feature these initiatives going forward.

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  • Strengthening U.S.-Canadian Critical Mineral Resource Cooperation in the Context of an All-of-the-Above Strategy

    Against the backdrop of a new government having been elected in Canada, former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson makes the case for the United States and Canada to deepen cooperation in the realm of critical mineral resources in a recent piece for the Globe and Mail. Highlighting the longstanding “long and productive partnership on everything [...]
  • A Hot Take From Detroit: Time to Bring Battery Production Here — All the Way to The Mines

    As the electrification of the global vehicle fleet continues to gain steam, Ford Motor Co.’s president and CEO Jim Farley recently made some comments during a live-streamed interview with the director of Detroit Homecoming VIII Mary Kramer that should give policy makers some food for thought. Expressing his concerns about the affordability of electric vehicles [...]
  • Wind Turbine Makers’ Price Challenges Sign of Looming Raw Material Shortfalls

    As lawmakers on Capitol Hill are scrambling to finalize major federal spending legislation set to include several key provisions relating to natural resources, a recent Wall Street Journal piece on wind power underscores the urgency of our nation’s looming raw material shortfalls. Against the backdrop of surging demand in the context of the green energy transition, wind [...]
  • Industry Experts Lament Inclusion of Hardrock Mining Royalties and Fees in Reconciliation Spending Package

    Against the backdrop of the accelerating battery arms race, and a recent growing realization that our nation has become over-reliant on critical mineral imports from adversary nations, the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources committee has added language to the proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation spending package last week that could throw a serious wrench into [...]
  • New Publication Alert – Metal Tech News Releases Comprehensive Primer on Critical Minerals

    Shane Lasley has done it again.  Known to followers of ARPN for his stellar reporting on critical mineral resource issues from an Alaskan perspective, his Metal Tech News project has published what may just be the most comprehensive North American primer on critical minerals: Critical Minerals Alliances is a magazine covering more than twenty metals and minerals critical to North American [...]
  • Closing the Loop “Contributor” to Solving our Critical Mineral Resource Woes, “Not a Solution”

    As the global battery arms race continues to heat up amidst surging demand for EV battery technology and energy storage systems, a recent Financial Times piece explores the themes of urban mining and closed-loop solutions to increase critical mineral resource supply. The piece outlines a significant challenge with regards to today’s critical mineral resource supply [...]
  • To Lead in EV Revolution, We Must Ramp Up U.S. Mineral Production

    “The U.S. has for too long ceded control of the front end of our manufacturing supply chains to foreign nations, assuming the materials we require will be there when we need them,” writes National Mining Association president and CEO Rich Nolan in a recent Boston Herald piece. In doing so, the U.S. has allowed China [...]
  • Summer Critical Mineral Import Data Provides Fresh Impetus for Comprehensive Resource Policy Reform

    In the wake of several eye-openers regarding our nation’s critical mineral supply chain woes — the coronavirus pandemic, increasing trade tensions with adversary nations like China, and reports underscoring the mineral intensity of our green energy future — the bipartisan infrastructure package passed by the U.S. Senate before the August recess contained a series of [...]

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