American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The Most Critical Non-Critical? A Look at Copper

    In a new piece for Metal Tech News, Shane Lasley zeroes in on the U.S. government’s failure – at least to date – to afford critical mineral status to copper, which is not only a key mainstay metal but an indispensable component in clean energy technology, and supply scenarios in the face of surging demand as the world accelerates the push towards net zero carbon are challenging at best.

    Laments Lasley:

    “The case for copper’s criticality is backed by commodity analysts who predict global copper production will need to double by 2035 to meet demands driven by global net-zero emission goals. Building that level of capacity in just 12 years, while at the same time not losing any output from existing mines, is a highly unlikely scenario.


    Despite the growing consensus that it is going to require extraordinary measures to ensure that there is enough copper to achieve global net-zero carbon emission goals, the U.S. Geological Survey has remained steadfast in its refusal to add this metal to America’s critical minerals list.”

    USGS Director Dave Applegate has publicly stated that while copper is considered an essential mineral, copper does not meet the agencies criteria for elevating the material onto the critical minerals list, an assessment that, in Lasley’s eyes, “seems to ignore the forecasts that demand will outstrip supply over the next two decades.”

    Lasley points to the Copper Development Association’s (CDA’s) commissioning of an analysis mimicking USGS methodology employed for the 2022 Critical Minerals List, which the association maintains was based on out-of-date data.  The CDA-commissioned analysis concluding that copper does meet the “critical” criteria when basing the assessment on “the very latest available data.” 

    As followers of ARPN well know, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty has called for the designation of copper as a critical mineral on several occasions, and has submitted public comments to USGS to this effect.

    However, USGS has remained steadfast in its refusal to re-consider copper’s status even though the Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has statutory authority to add copper to the Critical Minerals List without waiting for the next official update of the entire list, and has rejected a formal request by a broad coalition including federal lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle and more than 70 trade associations and unions to do so.

    The U.S. Department of Energy, meanwhile, recognized the growing importance of copper and included it into its critical materials list as part of its 2023 Critical Materials Assessment. While agreeing with the USGS notion of a diverse and relatively low-risk global copper supply, the department’s inclusion of copper was prompted by a longer-time view that declining ore grades and growing competition for available resources might change the outlook so that “identifying and mitigating material criticality now will ensure that a clean energy future is possible for decades to come.”

    USGS may have rejected a direct broad-based push to include copper into the overall government Critical Minerals List, but a congressional push is still underway, and the recent DOE elevation of copper’s status may provide a boost for U.S. Rep. Juan Ciscomani’s (R-Ariz.) Copper is Critical Act, which would do so with or without USGS consent.

    As copper demand in an increasingly net zero world continues to grow, ARPN will watch the push to add the perhaps most critical non-critical to the official U.S. government list with great interest.

  • New Report Predicts Supply Gaps for Four Battery Criticals Plus Neodymium and Copper, Calls for Significant Capital Investments Along Supply Chains

    A new report released this month by the Energy Transition Commission, an international think tank comprising a coalition of leaders from across the energy landscape committed to achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century, has identified supply gaps for six materials key to green energy technology and calls for increased investment in the supply chain to stave off shortages looming within the next decade.

    Predicting that the global pursuit of net zero carbon emissions will require production of up to 6.5 billion tonnes of materials between 2022 and 2050, the study predicts looming supply gaps for four of what ARPN has dubbed the battery criticals — lithium, nickel, graphite and cobalt (but not the fifth battery critical manganese), as well as the rare earth material neodymium and copper, a mainstay metal that has featured prominently on various government’s critical minerals lists but has yet to be added to the overall U.S. government list (though DoE has just afforded the metal critical mineral status in its 2023 Critical Materials Assessment).

    The authors of the study lament the lack of investment in exploration in the past decade and argue that “[i]n some key minerals — particularly lithium and copper – it will be challenging to scale up supply fast enough over the next decade to keep pace with rapidly rising demand.”

    Stressing the need for drastic increases in capital investment in energy transition metals, the commission calls for a comprehensive “all-of-the-above” approach to mineral resource security, which harnesses the potential of recycling and improving technology and materials efficiency alongside more mining and prudently regulating environmental and social standards.

    The report is released at a time when nations around the world are stepping up their efforts to secure the materials underpinning 21st century and green energy technologies. While much progress has been made both via national and multilateral efforts – see our previous coverage here on the blog under the section header “recent posts” — more remains to be done.

    See the report here.

  • Bearing Testimony to Its Importance to the Green Energy Shift, DOE Adds Copper to Department’s Critical Materials List

    Against the backdrop of mounting supply chain concerns for critical minerals, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has officially added copper to its critical materials list in the context of the agency’s 2023 Critical Materials Assessment. The annual report assesses the criticality of materials to the supply chains in the renewable energy technology sector and focuses [...]
  • WSJ News Explainer: Looming Copper Shortage Threatens Green Tech Transition

    While lithium remains the poster child of the green energy transition, stakeholders and media have started to pay closer attention to the other four “battery criticals” graphite, cobalt, nickel and manganese (for more ARPN coverage click on the respective metal) — and rightfully so. However, one of the key components of 21st century renewable energy technology, copper, often continues to fly under the radar [...]
  • India Ups the Ante in New “Great Game,” Releases Critical Minerals List and Joins MSP

    As nations all across the globe scramble to secure critical mineral supply chains against the backdrop of surging demand in the context of the green energy transition and rising geopolitical tensions, India is stepping up its critical mineral resource policy game. This week, the Indian Ministry of Mines released a comprehensive Critical Minerals List, consisting of 30 [...]
  • Lawmakers Seek Critical Mineral Designation for Copper via Federal Legislation

    Two weeks after the U.S. Geological Survey rebuffed a bipartisan call from members of Congress for an “out-of-cycle”addition of copper to the U.S. Government’s official List of Critical Minerals, House Republicans from Western mining states are pushing to achieve the “critical mineral” designation for copper via legislation. Arguing that changing copper’s designation would allow the federal government to more efficiently [...]
  • Has the Green Energy Transition Ushered in a New Commodity Supercycle?

    If history holds one important lesson for us, it’s that most things in life are cyclical. Low tide and high tide, ups and downs, times of war, times of peace.  What holds true on a personal level, also applies to bigger fields like economics. As value investor and author Howard Marks phrased it: “Mechanical things can go [...]
  • As Biden Administration Doubles Down on EV Adoption Push, U.S. Must Double Down on Comprehensive “All-of-the-Above” Critical Minerals Strategy

    The Biden Administration has announced the “most aggressive” plan to curb tailpipe emissions to date, with new vehicle pollution standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and announced by the White House last week. If finalized, the proposed rules would require automakers to reduce carbon emissions by 56% in their 2032 models compared to 2026 models.  The expectation is [...]
  • EU Critical Mineral Supply Chain Action Plan Focuses on Permitting, Adds Copper and Nickel to List of Critical Raw Materials

    With demand for critical minerals projected to increase dramatically against the backdrop of geopolitical tension and strained supply chains, the European Union has released its long-awaited action plan to “ensure the EU’s access to a secure, diversified, affordable and sustainable supply of critical raw materials.” The Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) presented to lawmakers in Brussels on March [...]
  • Copper – A Mainstay Metal, Gateway Metal and Energy Metal, But Not a Critical Mineral? Some Think it’s Time to Change This

    As a highly versatile key mainstay metal, copper has been a building block of humanity’s progress. As a gateway metal, it yields access to critical minerals.  It also is an energy metal — an indispensable component for advanced energy technologies, ranging from EVs and wind turbines to the electric grid and solar panels. But for all its traditional and new applications [...]