American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Move Over, Lithium – Manganese Emerges as a Key Player in the EV Revolution

    When it comes to the metals and minerals underpinning the green energy transition, Lithium, not surprisingly has become the obvious poster child. After all, one of the key technologies in the context of the EV revolution is lithium-ion battery technology.

    However, as followers of ARPN well know, there is more to the story, and more than one battery technology, and, as Jessica Cummins outlines in a recent piece for Stockhead, demand for one of the lesser-known raw materials and one of the five minerals ARPN has designated as “battery criticals” – manganese – is on the rise.  Writes Cummins:

    “An afterthought in global commodity markets for the last few decades, almost half of today’s lithium-ion batteries include manganese, and CPM’s projections have that figure jumping above 60% by 2030.

    With its ability to increase energy density, equating to longer driving range in the case of electric vehicles, and the added benefit of combustibility reduction, manganese is fast emerging as a vital material to the future of the EV industry and automakers are cashing in.” 

    In recent years, automakers increasingly expanded their battery material focus to include manganese, and while Volkswagen’s 2021 announcement of the company’s intention to incorporate high-manganese cathodes into its EV batteries was considered surprising, other automakers have since followed suit.

    Cummins believes, however, that the ‘third wave’ of battery technology development, called lithium-manganese-iron-phosphate (LMFP) battery technology, might have the biggest impact going forward.

    She points to recent research which has found that the incorporation of manganese into an upgraded version of lithium-iron-phosphate batteries (LFP), which represent the dominant battery chemistry in China, can double the range for a single charge from roughly 500km to up to 1,000km.  A Chinese supplier for Volkswagen says its LMFP technology has a life cycle of 4,000 charge-discharge cycles and over a lifetime can reach a range of up to 4 million km.

    Element 25, owner and operator of Australia’s biggest onshore manganese resource, is building a battery plant in Louisiana and will be supplying Stellantis and General Motors. Cummins cites the company’s managing director Justin Brown, who says:

    “What we’re seeing is the shift away from cobalt, which has meant that the proportion of nickel has been increasing, however nickel has become problematic because all significant nickel supply comes from laterite processing in Indonesia, which is energy intensive and an environmentally destructive process.”

    Brown adds:

    “Manganese is now the go-to metal and while the transition isn’t going to happen overnight, I’m told by the OEMs that the factories they are building now will be able to switch across to high manganese cathode materials without any significant re-tooling. It has become a really important part of their planning and over the next two years, when we get into production, I think you’re going to see a completely new landscape.”

    With the importance of manganese growing – industry insiders already see LFMP batteries overtaking LFP in China – there is a looming supply shortage in the high-purity manganese market which is set to “really heat up” in 2028.

    BloombergNEF expects demand from manganese from the battery segment to surge ninefold by 2030.  These developments have prompted a series of U.S. domestic efforts to secure manganese supply chains.

    As ARPN outlined earlier this year, Nevada Silver Corporation, a U.S.-based mineral development company announced that its Minnesota-based subsidiary North Star Manganese received the required permits to commence drilling at its Emily Manganese Project.   Located in the Cayuga Iron Range of Central Minnesota, the Emily District “may contain the largest and highest-grade manganese deposits in the Northern Hemisphere” according to USGS. Drilling has begun and the company has already constructed a processing plant on site.

    Further down the development path is the Arizona-based Hermosa Project, owned by major global manganese miner South32’s U.S. subsidiary, which the company calls its first “next generation mine” based on a design that uses automation and targets carbon-neutral mining operations in support of South32’s goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  Hermosa is “multi-Critical,” hosting not only manganese, but what may be the world’s largest zinc deposit, which is a key material in solar and wind power systems.

    With demand for EV technology surging, and developments as the ones outlined by Cummins underway, the days when manganese flew under the radar are a thing of the past.

    Expect to see and hear more about the material going forward, because, as Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Simon Moores phrased it last year, manganese represents an “EV supply chain bottleneck that can no longer be pushed into tomorrow by battery and automakers.”

  • Visualizing the Lithium Challenge – Time to Strengthen the Domestic Supply Chain

    As part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to bolster U.S. critical mineral supply chains, and specifically the battery supply chain, the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) has announced a conditional commitment to Ioneer Rhyolite Ridge to advance the domestic production of lithium and boron.

    Under the conditional commitment, the LPO would lend up to $700 million to the company to develop lithium carbonate for EV batteries from the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Esmeralda County, NV.  According to DOE, if implemented, the project could produce enough lithium production to power 370,000 EVs each year, and offtake agreements with Ford, Prime Planet Energy & Solutions and EcoPro Innovation have been executed.

    The announcement could not be more timely. With lithium a key component of the lithium-ion battery cathode, demand for the material is surging rapidly, and is projected to exceed current global production by 2030.

    Meanwhile, as global lithium production has quadrupled since 2010, the U.S. share of production has dropped significantly.

    new graphic by Visual Capitalist paints the picture, and it’s not pretty:

    Screenshot 2023-01-24 at 9.08.36 AM

    As Visual Capitalist outlines, the U.S. was the largest producer of lithium in the 1990s, accounting for over one-third of global production in 1995.  Today, three countries, Australia, Chile and China dominate the field, with Australia producing more than 50% of the world’s lithium.

    As for the U.S., it now accounts for 1% of the world total.

    China may only account for 13% of total production, but has not only consistently developed domestic mining capabilities, but has also acquired lithium assets in countries like Chile, Canada and Australia, and – one link down the lithium supply chain — has ensured it is home to 60% of global refining capacity.

    The Rhyolite Ridge project would be the second lithium mine in the United States, but – while DOE is providing a 9-digit loan guarantee – the project is still pending approval from DOI, the Department of the Interior, where it is mired in the inherent irony of the green energy transition, with environmentalists opposing the project on grounds that Thiem’s buckwheat, a rare wildflower found on the proposed mine site, was added to the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only a few weeks ago.   We have seen this paradox elsewhere. As Reuters columnist Andy Home phrased it“public opinion is firmly in favour of decarbonisation but not the mines and smelters needed to get there.”

    But as followers of ARPN well know, we clearly can’t have our cake and eat it, too.

    Achieving global (and domestic) decarbonization goals while at the same time strengthening our supply chains and reducing our over-reliance on critical minerals from China will require a comprehensive “all of the above” approach across the entire value chain, and,  ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty has pointed out on several occasions, “we don’t have the luxury of time” anymore.

  • Energy Provisions in Inflation Reduction Act Spur Efforts to Build Out U.S. Battery Supply Chain, as States Step Up Their Own Efforts

    The energy provisions in the recently passed congressional Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) are beginning to bear fruit.  Standing to get $35 million in government subsidies for every gigagwatt-hour of cell storage capacity produced, battery suppliers are stepping up their efforts in the United States. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Norwegian battery maker Freyr and energy conglomerate [...]
  • Battery Show Panels Mull Options to Strengthen U.S. Battery Supply Chains in Wake of Inflation Reduction Act Passage

    As one of the longest running and biggest automobile shows in North America, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) — or the Detroit auto show, as it is known more colloquially — has traditionally been one of the key events for car makers every year.   This year, however, another concurrently held event taking place roughly 30 miles [...]
  • Congress “Net-Zeroes” in on Energy Security, Supply Chains for Critical Minerals – A Look at the Inflation Reduction Act

    As countries and corporations continue the global quest towards net zero carbon emissions, the U.S. Congress has passed what some consider landmark legislation to address climate change and bolster our nation’s economic and national security. The clean energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act negotiated by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) — [...]
  • Biden Administration Announces Grant Program for Domestic Production and Recycling of EV Battery Components

    Acknowledging the vast material inputs required to power the EV revolution in the context of the push towards net zero carbon — as well as the significant supply chain challenges associated with the sought-after shift — the Biden Administration has announced a $3.1 billion funding program for U.S. companies producing and recycling lithium-ion batteries. According to Secretary [...]
  • Russia’s War on Ukraine and Rising Resource Nationalism to Reshape Global Post-Cold War Order and Resource Supply Chains – A Look at Cobalt

    With a single electric vehicle battery requiring between 10 and 30 pounds of cobalt content, the lustrous, silvery blue, hard ferromagnetic, brittle nickel and copper co-product has long attained “critical mineral” status. However, with most global supplies of the material coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where mining conditions often involve unethical labor standards and [...]
  • It’s the Processing, Stupid? The Critical Mineral Supply Chain Challenge Visualized

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This Visual Capitalist graphic may not exactly qualify as a picture – but is certainly reveals a lot about the complexity and urgency of the West’s critical mineral woes, and underscores how China has managed to corner the strategic and clean energy materials supply chain especially when [...]
  • Securing the Supply Chain — “If Tesla’s Got Troubles, Everyone Should Worry”

    Every December, editors of the English-speaking world’s dictionaries release their choices for Word of the Year, a “word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months.” Unsurprisingly, for 2020, the honorees were coronavirus-related terms, with Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com bestowing the honor on the word “Pandemic,” whereas the Collins Dictionary Word of the [...]
  • “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 [...]