American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 of Energy Jennifer Granholm, the move to provide grants to companies that can create new, retrofitted or expanded processing facilities as well as battery recycling programs will further the Biden Administration’s aspiration that 50 percent of all vehicles sold in America by 2030 be electric while strengthening U.S. energy independence.

    The funds, which account for almost half of the $7 billion approved for domestic battery supply chain improvements in the 2021 infrastructure law, will be released via grants to as many as thirty companies which will be required to match them on a 50-50 basis.

    Abigail Wulf, vice president of critical minerals strategy at the non-partisan advocacy group SAFE said: “The United States is finally getting into the global battery race and broader race for the future,” adding that “[i]t’s now up to DOE to get the money out the door to projects that will make us stronger in the short- and long-term.”

    The move ties into a broader push by the Biden Administration to strengthen critical mineral supply chains, and follows on the heels of a March 31 presidential determination to invoke the Defense Production Act to shore up domestic production of the critical minerals required to manufacture EV batteries.

    However, mining expert Debra Struhsacker, co-founder of the Women’s Mining Coalition, has pointed to “mixed signals” sent by the Biden Administration about “whether it is really serious about extracting critical minerals from U.S. mines,” arguing that “on the same day the president made his Defense Production Act announcement, the Department of the Interior published a Federal Register notice to begin a process to change mining laws and regulations in ways that could make it harder and more expensive to develop critical minerals and put lands off-limits to mining.”

    As National Mining Association president and CEO Rich Nolan said in response to the presidential determination invoking the DPA earlier this spring:

    “The minerals supply chain that will drive the electrification of our transportation sector and the energy transition is not only at risk from a perilous and growing import dependence, but the approaching minerals demand wave is set to strain every sector of the economy and requires an urgency in action from government and industry never before seen. Unless we continue to build on this action, and get serious about reshoring these supply chains and bringing new mines and mineral processing online, we risk feeding the minerals dominance of geopolitical rivals. We have abundant mineral resources here. What we need is policy to ensure we can produce them and build the secure, reliable supply chains we know we must have.”

    Recent actions taken by the Administration to strengthen domestic supply chains thus far are important steps towards greater mineral resource independence – but they must be embedded into the context of a comprehensive and unambiguous “all of the above” approach across the entire value chain.  As we like to say at ARPN, “supply chain” begins with… supply.

  • 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 child labor, as well as poor environmental standards, battery makers and researchers were in some cases beginning to turn to nickel as a substitute for cobalt — as in nickel-iron-aluminum cathodes, for example.

    And here’s where environmental and human rights concerns intersect with geopolitics.

    Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine is increasingly straining nickel supply chains (see our latest post here).  As a result, analysts are keeping a close eye on cobalt, which could see prices go up as potentially persistent “elevated nickel prices could push demand from battery production back in cobalt’s direction.”

    At the same time, concern over cobalt supply chains is mounting against the backdrop of a major court ruling in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which, according to the Wall Street Journal’s What’s News podcast from March 14, has sent “shockwaves through the industry with potentially wide reaching implications for China, the US and the world.”

    In the recent ruling, a DRC court appointed a temporary administrator from the state miner to effectively take control of China Molybdenum’s Tenke Fungurume mine amid a dispute between the shareholders over reserves of copper and cobalt. According to Reuters, the dispute began last fall, when the DRC’s government set up a commission to “reassess the reserves and resources at the mine (…) in order to ‘fairly lay claim to (its) rights,’” after alleging that the Chinese miner deprived the country of millions of dollars in annual payments for undeclared discoveries of copper and cobalt.

    As WSJ correspondent for Uganda and Africa’s Great Lakes Region Nicholas Bariyo argues, the move appears to be part of a larger push by the DRC to take control of the lucrative cobalt industry. Says Bariyo:

    “The DRC, despite having all these huge mineral resources remains one of the poorest countries in the world with a significant percentage of the population living under less than $2 a day and most of them unemployed and this widespread poverty. So in this case, the Congolese feel like they’re not benefiting so much from this mineral earth. And at the same time, when you look across the wider continent, commodity prices are skyrocketing and most of these resource rich nations tend to push for bigger share of proceeds from this industry as prices go up here. So this is something that is likely to really spiral beyond the Congolese border.” 

    Developments in the DRC tie into an overall shift towards resource nationalism around the globe, as evidenced most recently in Central and South America, where the political tide “has turned decisively toward leaders who openly shun laissez-faire economics” and “a new generation of presidents and legislative leaders is advocating for greater government control of national economies, and with this trend, the specter of resource nationalism has once again gained a foothold in the region,” as Peter Schechter and Juan Cortiñas recently outlined in a  piece for Marsh McLennan’s Brink News.

    All of which is to say that the newfound resolve of the Biden Administration to make “major investments in domestic production of key critical minerals and materials, ensuring these resources benefit the community, and creating good-paying, union jobs in sustainable production,” and new reports that “US regulators are warming to approving new domestic sources of electric vehicle battery metals, as Washington bids to avoid a reliance on strategic minerals imports similar to that on crude oil,” are a more than welcome development.

    As Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV),  James Risch (R-ID), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) argued in a recent letter to President Biden urging the Administration to “invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic production of lithium-ion battery materials, in particular graphite, manganese, cobalt, nickel, and lithium:”

    “Allowing our foreign mineral dependence to persist is a growing threat to U.S. national security, and we need to take every step to address it. The 100-day report acknowledges the ‘powerful tool’ the DPA has been to expand production of supplies needed to combat COVID-19, as well as the potential the DPA could have to ‘support investment in other critical sectors and enable industry and government to collaborate more effectively.’  The time is now to grow, support, and encourage investment in the domestic production of graphite, manganese, cobalt, lithium, nickel, and other critical minerals to ensure we support our national security, and to fulfill our need for lithium-ion batteries – both for consumers and for the Department of Defense.”

    As the world begins to realign in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and rising resource nationalism, it is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. will have to harness our arguably vast domestic resource potential across the entire value chain — from mine to manufacturing – if we want to remain safe, secure and competitive in the 21st Century.

  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Podcast: Battery Tech Supply Chain Expert Simon Moores Discusses Lithium Challenge

    American Jobs Plan, Green New Deal … irrespective of whether these plans will get implemented fully or in part, the renewable energy transition is already here, and it’s here to stay. The renewable energy sector has been transforming at neck-breaking speed, and with that, demand for the metals and minerals underpinning the green energy shift [...]
  • The Road to “Building Back Better” is Paved with Critical Metals and Minerals

    Another round of COVID relief stimulus checks is hitting Americans’ bank account this week, and a vaccine schedule laid has been laid out. Time for the Administration and Congress to move on to the next key priority of the Biden Administration’s “Build Back Better” agenda: an economic recovery package that will “make historic investments in [...]
  • A Pivotal Moment to “Get Serious About Building the Domestic Mineral Supply Chain”

    Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order instructing his economic and national security teams to conduct a 100 day review of four key U.S. supply chains across federal agencies to assess the nation’s “resiliency and capacity of the American manufacturing supply chains and defense industrial base to support national security [and] emergency [...]
  • Amidst Big Policy Shifts, Signs for Continued Emphasis on Securing Critical Mineral Supply Chains at DoE

    Parents of young children will know: Transitions are hard. And what is true for toddlers, is also true for government. Observers of the critical mineral resource realm have been closely monitoring the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. There were early indications that, unlike some other areas, the critical mineral resource realm [...]