American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Penn State University Launches Center for Critical Minerals

    Against the backdrop of a growing awareness of our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources — one need to look no further than the current coverage of China’s threat to play the “rare earths card” — Penn State University is launching a Center for Critical Minerals.

    Under the auspices of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, the Center will “leverage Penn State’s existing faculty, facilities and research strengths in an effort to make the University the go-to resource for critical minerals research and technical support for industry.”

    Says Pete Rozelle, A Penn State alumnus and retired program manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, who advises the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences on mineral resource issues:

    “Penn State has a long tradition of meeting industry and government research needs in the minerals field. (…) From geologic exploration to mineral extraction technologies to techno-economic analyses, the University’s new Center for Critical Minerals offers a comprehensive set of capabilities to support the development of new U.S. sources for these mineral products.”

    The center’s focus will be placed on:

    “Gain[ing]  a fundamental understanding of the presence, chemical nature and associations of critical mineral products in geologic formations, as well as secondary sources such as coal and other mining waste streams and metallurgical waste dumps, electronic waste and sludges from the treatment of acid mine drainage, and byproduct water from the oil and gas industry.

    -Develop[ing] novel processes for extraction and separation/purification while advancing the fundamentals and developing technologies for sustainable recovery of critical materials.

    -Develop[ing] financial models and project values utilizing realistic models for field-scale processes for mineral recovery and detailed databases for costs and price projections.

    -Analyz[ing] alternate economic and policy scenarios and develop policy guidelines for implementation of field projects.

    -Provid[ing] technical support for commercial project development activities associated with bridging value chain gaps.

    In its efforts, the center will collaborate with government and the private sector.  This approach  has already yielded some great breakthroughs, several of which we have featured in our Materials Science Profiles of Progress series on the ARPN blog — including a successful collaboration between Penn State and DoE researchers to develop an “economical way to extract rare earth elements from coal byproducts using an advanced ion exchange method.”

    Of course, however, while we applaud the effort, followers of ARPN will know that the initiative can only be considered one piece of the puzzle, and must be firmly embedded in the context of a “broader strategy to ‘ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.”

    Hopefully, the developments we’ve witnessed over the last few weeks on the mineral resource front will serve as a catalyst for the formulation and implementation of said broader strategy.

  • Profiles of Progress: Public and Private Sectors to Collaborate on World Bank “Climate-Smart Mining Facility”

    Evolving out of its 2017 report “The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future”, which found that the sought-after transition to a “low-carbon future will be significantly more mineral intensive than a business as usual scenario,” the World Bank developed its “Climate-Smart Mining” initiative, which ARPN discussed a few weeks ago.

    Against this backdrop, earlier this month, representatives from public and private sectors from all over the world met in Washington, D.C. for the “Minerals for Climate Action” conference, to launch the World Bank’s “Climate-Smart Mining Facility.”  This multi-donor trust fund has the stated goal of “help[ing] resource-rich developing countries benefit from the increasing demand for minerals and metals, while ensuring the mining sector is managed in a way that minimizes the environmental and climate footprint.”

    According to the World Bank

    “[t]he Facility supports the sustainable extraction and processing of minerals and metals to secure supply for clean energy technologies by minimizing the social, environmental, and climate footprint throughout the value chain of those materials by scaling up technical assistance and investments in resource-rich developing countries.”

    Initial support for the trust fund, which will support specific projects aimed at helping developing countries and emerging economies devise and implement “sustainable and responsible strategies and practices across the mineral value chain,” comes from the German government, as well as private sector companies Rio Tinto and Anglo American.

    According to the World Bank’s press release, “[t]he Facility will also assist governments to build a robust policy, regulatory and legal framework that promotes climate-smart mining and creates an enabling environment for private capital.”

    As followers of ARPN know from our Materials Science Profiles of Progress blog series , public-private partnerships are fueling the materials science revolution which is transforming the ways in which we use and obtain metals and minerals. In the context of the series, we have been featuring a number of domestic public-private partnerships develop practical solutions to critical minerals issues.  

    Seeing these types of partnerships further the goal of sustainably greening the future by responsibly harnessing metals and minerals on an international level is a welcome development, and we’ll be keeping tabs on the “Climate Smart Mining Initiative.”

  • U.S. Should Revisit R&D Spending Priorities, But Reform Cannot Occur in Vacuum 

    Followers of ARPN have long known that China is the big elephant in the room.  In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Ezekiel Emanuel, Amy Gadsden and Scott Moore lament that while there is a growing  awareness that China may be the – in the words of Sec. of State Mike Pompeo “greatest challenge that [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress – Advances in Metals and Minerals Research May Yield Breakthrough in Quest for Fusion Power

    “Thousands of years ago, humans discovered they could heat rocks to get metal, and it defined an epoch. Later, we refined iron into steel, and it changed the course of civilization. More recently, we turned petroleum into plastic, with all that implies. Whenever we create new materials that push the limits of what’s possible, we [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: DoE’s New Research Center on Lithium Battery Recycling to Leverage Resources of Private Sector, Universities and National Laboratories

    Speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Energy Innovation Council last week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the launch of a new research center on lithium battery recycling. The Battery Recycling R&D Center will focus on reclaiming and recycling “critical materials (e.g. cobalt and lithium) from lithium based battery technology used in consumer electronics, defense, energy [...]
  • 2018 – A Year of Incremental Progress?

    In case you hadn’t noticed amidst holiday preparations, travel arrangements and the usual chaos of everyday life – 2019 is just around the corner, and with that, the time to reflect on the past twelve months has arrived. So here is ARPN’s recap of 2018: Where we began. Unlike previous years, we started 2018 with [...]
  • Passing the Torch – Change in Leadership at Critical Materials Institute (CMI)

    There’s a lot going on in the realm of critical minerals these days – and that does not only apply to policy, but also personnel changes. After five years of building and leading the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, its Director Dr. Alex King [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: CMI Expands Collaborative Research Focus to Include Lithium and Cobalt

    The Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a Department of Energy research hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory, is expanding its research on tech metals “as rapid growth in electric vehicles drives demand for lithium, cobalt.” According to a recent Ames Lab press release, the Institute will focus on maximizing the efficiency of processing, usage and [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: CMI Announces New Partnership to Recover REEs from E-Waste

    A new year, a new installment of our Materials Science Profiles of Progress series: The Critical Materials Institute (CMI), a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub under the auspices of Ames Laboratory has announced a new collaboration entered into by one of its industry associates to recover Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from electronic waste.  Momentum [...]
  • 2017 – a Year of Mixed Signals: No Grand Strategy – But Some Signs We May Be Digging Out of Our Resource Dependency

    Amidst the chaos of Christmas shopping, holiday parties and travel arrangements, the end of the year is customarily the time to take stock of the last twelve months and assess where to go from here. Here is our recap of 2017: On the heels of a year that very much presented itself as a mixed [...]