“Do I have to draw you a map?”
As idioms go, that phrase is much nicer than the message it intends – but it’s apt for a new exercise linking the collective expertise of the geological surveys of Australia, Canada and the U.S.: an interactive world map of deposits of rare earths and other critical metals and minerals. The Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative was established in December 2019.
The now-released online portal contains “the world’s largest dataset of minerals such as cobalt, lithium and rare earth elements and has more than 7,000 mineral samples from over 60 countries which could help identify new areas of critical minerals.” This tool and its underlying data “can be used by governments to identify options to diversify their critical minerals sources and by companies to better target their exploration strategies.”
The critical minerals map is of a piece with the Biden Administration’s recently-released 100-day supply chain report, which issued a clear signal that it intends to pursue an “all of the above” strategy when it comes to securing critical mineral supply chains. Alleviating concerns that the Administration would adopt a more selective approach, the report and subsequent statements by Administration officials have made clear that the approach encompasses both investing in “sustainable production, refining, and recycling capacity domestically,” AND working to “diversify supply chains away from adversarial nations and sources with unacceptable environmental and labor standards” by cooperating closely with allies and partners.
Acknowledging China’s role as the world’s leading processor of battery tech metals and our nation’s dependency on Beijing, the White House stressed that “[t]he United States cannot and does not need to mine and process all critical battery inputs at home. It can and should work with allies and partners to expand global production and to ensure secure global supplies.”
As part of the U.S.’s cooperative efforts with close friends and allies, Canada and Australia have taken center stage — for obvious reasons, as we have pointed out in a recent post. As supply chain dependencies command more attention, cooperation between the three countries with regards to critical minerals — the deepening of which began even before the coronavirus pandemic — is likely to grow.
For followers of ARPN, there’s certainly no need for us to draw you a map when it comes to the following statement. With demand for critical minerals expected to soar in the context of the global pursuit of a low-carbon energy future, this is a welcome additional asset – a field guide for a comprehensive “all of the above” strategy to address our deep critical mineral shortfalls.
All the same, it’s great to have a global guide to potential deposits of the minerals and metals shaping the Tech Metals Age.