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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Copper, Lithium, Antimony and Tellurium: Minerals Make Life Features Four Minerals as “Key to an Advanced Energy Future”

    As the number of countries pledging to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century (or soon thereafter) continues to grow, and governments and other stakeholders work to transform the energy systems underpinning our economies, demand for critical metals and minerals is soaring.

    The rapidly-accelerating adoption of EV battery technology, along with plans to build out power lines to move electricity from wind turbines and solar farms to cities and suburbs, are key drivers of unprecedented demand projections for the materials fueling these technologies.

    The National Mining Association’s Minerals Make Life blog earlier this month took a closer look at four metals and minerals essential to the pursuit of net-zero.

    Citing the IEA’s recently issued “stark warning” as part of its Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector report — which effectively proclaimed: “Fail to develop the mineral supply chains that are the building blocks for advanced energy technologies and risk undercutting deployment at the speed and scale needed to meet emission reduction goals” — the  Minerals Make Life post laments that, to date, the U.S. has not harnessed our vast domestic mineral potential.  The post points to several domestic projects that could help alleviate our critical mineral supply chain concerns for Copper, Lithium, Antimony and Tellurium, all of which are key building blocks of renewable energy technology:

    For Copper, which “provides the arteries and veins of an electrified world,” NMA points to Freeport-McMoRan’s newest project “on track to exceed 200 million pounds of copper a year in 2021,” Taseko’s Florence Copper’s development of “a copper recovery process expected to produce an average of 85 million pounds of copper per year over 20 years” with minimal environmental footprint, as well as Rio Tinto’s proposed Resolution Copper Mine and Hudbay’s Rosemont Copper Mine — both of which are ready to supply future copper needs assuming ongoing permitting hurdles are cleared.  And if the U.S. hopes to have the copper it needs to be a tech power in the net zero world, having those projects move through permitting and into production will be critical.  As a Rio Tinto executive noted at the 2019 World Copper Conference:  “The world will need the same amount of copper over the next 25 years that it has produced in the past 500 years if it is to meet global demand.”

    For Lithium, NMA highlights Lithium America’s Thacker Pass project in Nevada, which could deliver an estimated 60,000 tones of battery-grade material per year, alongside Standard Lithium’s Lanxess project in Arkansas, which could produce 29,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate annually.

    For Antimony, which has been flying under the radar and is less well-known that the two above-referenced materials, but has critical applications for EV batteries, wind turbines, and semiconductors to name but a few high-tech applications, the post highlights Perpetua Resources’ proposed Stibnite Gold Project in central Idaho, which projects significant antimony production as a co-product.  Once approved, says NMA, the “mine could rank in the top 10 antimony producing mines globally, and supply 35 percent of U.S. demand within six years.”

    For Tellurium, another “unsung hero of advanced energy technologies,” NMA points to Rio Tinto’s Kennecott mine in Utah, where the company plans to extract Tellurium as a co-product of its copper production operations, generating 20 tonnes of tellurium a year.

    The post merely provides a snapshot — there are many more promising projects for a variety of critical metals and minerals, but many of them are still mired in regulatory red tape.

    The post concludes:

    “Across the U.S., mining companies are harnessing innovation to deliver minerals more efficiently and sustainably, but their ability to meet our soaring mineral demands is being undercut by a legislative environment defined by cumbersome permitting timelines and the threat of excessive fees. To address the climate challenge and secure our mineral supply chains, policymakers must enact the right policies to encourage investment in America’s minerals and resources.”

    Here’s hoping that in the context of its recently adopted “all of the above” approach to critical mineral resource security, the Biden Administration will work to support more sustainable and responsible domestic projects.

    As Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm recently told U.S. Senators:

    “This is the United States. We can mine in a responsible way. And many places are doing it. And there are some places where there are more challenges, but we can do this.”

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  • DoE Chapter of 100-Day Supply Chain Report Calls for Immediate Investment in “Scaling up a Secure, Diversified Supply Chain for High-Capacity Batteries Here at Home”

    The Biden Administration made clear early on that it is committed to pursuing a low-carbon energy future, and battery technology is a key driver underpinning the shift away from fossil fuels. Just a few weeks ago, when touting his infrastructure package at Ford’s electric vehicle plant in Dearborn, President Joe Biden declared: “The future of the auto industry is electric. There’s no turning back.”

    Thus, it came as no surprise that President Biden’s February 2021 executive order launching a 100-day review of supply chain vulnerabilities for four key products targeted advanced batteries. The Department of Energy has now completed its review, with the findings released last week as part of a comprehensive 100-Day Supply Chain Report.

    As DoE points out:

    “Advanced, high-capacity batteries play an integral role in 21st-century technologies that are critical to the clean energy transition and national security capabilities around the world—from electric vehicles, to stationary energy storage, to defense applications. Demand for these products is set to grow as supply chain constraints, geopolitical and economic competition, and other vulnerabilities are increasing as well.”

    In its report chapter, DoE notes that

    “The rationale for supporting the U.S. supply chain now is clear: demand for EVs and energy storage is increasing, investors are increasing investment in the clean economy, and the pandemic has underscored the fragility of some U.S. supply chains. China and the European Union (EU) – in contrast to the U.S. approach – have developed and deployed ambitious government-led industrial policies that are supporting their success across the battery supply chain. China has also moved beyond conventional policy support with practices involving questionable environmental policies, price distortion through state-run enterprises to minimize competition, and large subsidies throughout the battery supply chain.”

    In other words, as ARPN expert panel member and Benchmark Mineral Intelligence managing director Simon Moores told members of Congress a while back:

    “We are in the midst of a global battery arms race.”

    Moores had told members of Congress that “[i]t is not too late for the US [to secure global supply chains post-COVID] but action is needed now.” — a sentiment DoE echoes in its report chapter:

    “However, the opportunity for the United States to secure a leading position in the global battery market is still within reach if the Federal Government takes swift and coordinated action.”

    While less explicit about the “all of the above” approach than the Department of Defense, DoE notes that:

    “With the global lithium battery market expected to grow by a factor of five to ten by 2030, it is imperative that the United States invests immediately in scaling up a secure, diversified supply chain for high-capacity batteries here at home. That means seizing a critical opportunity to increase domestic battery manufacturing while investing to scale the full lithium battery supply chain, including the sustainable sourcing and processing of the critical minerals used in battery production all the way through to end-of-life battery collection and recycling.

    Through strong collaboration across the federal government, with U.S. industrial stakeholders, the research community, and international allies, the U.S. must develop a durable strategy that invests and scales our potential industrial strengths to meet this challenge.”

    Among the Agency’s key recommendations for immediate and future action to strengthen the domestic advanced battery supply chain are:

      • Strengthening U.S. manufacturing requirements in federally-funded grants, cooperative agreements, and research and development (R&D) contracts.
      • Procuring stationary battery storage.
      • Providing financing to the advanced battery supply chain for electric vehicles.
      • Releasing the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries by the Federal Consortium on Advanced Batteries (FCAB).
      • For Congress to catalyze private capital with new federal grant programs to support battery cell and pack manufacturing.
      • The electrification of the nation’s school bus fleet, and the acceleration of the electrification of the nation’s transit bus fleet.
      • Providing consumer rebates and tax incentives to spur consumer adoption of EVs.
      • Investing in the production of high-capacity batteries and products that use these batteries to support good-paying, union jobs.

    Developing strong environmental review permitting practices for the extraction of critical minerals.

    Under the sub-head “Mapping the Supply Chain,” while the Department zeroed in on the usual suspects — notably Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite, Manganese — all of which were officially deemed critical on the U.S. Government’s official 2018 Critical Minerals list — DoE also prominently features Nickel and Copper. For Nickel, DoE even notes that “if there are opportunities for the U.S. to target one part of the battery supply chain, this would likely be the most critical to provide short- and medium-term supply chain stability.”

    Which would make Nickel the most critical “non-Critical” – a status consistent with the word cloud we created based on the number of 100-Day Report mentions (footnotes included) of the metals and minerals that made the official U.S. Government Critical Minerals List of 2018 — and the two that didn’t but should have (Nickel and Copper).

    As we noted in our post earlier this week, the Biden Administration is right to give prominence to Nickel and Copper in its strategy.

    After all, as Reuters’s Andy Home has pointed out,

    “There is no domestic nickel processing capacity outside a limited amount of by-product salt production.

    Yet this particular battery metal is the one likely to experience the most significant demand increase over the coming years, the report says, with ‘market indications that there could be a large shortage of Class 1 nickel in the next 3-7 years.’

    Indeed, with nickel content rising in battery cathode design, not having enough of the right kind of nickel ‘poses a supply chain risk for battery manufacturing globally, not just in the United States.’”

    And for Copper, the latest IEA report has estimated that — largely driven by the EV revolution — demand will be 25 times greater in 2040 than it was in 2020.

    Thankfully, there are opportunities to alleviate our supply chain vulnerabilities and to begin the “sustainable sourcing and processing” here at home, both for Nickel and Copper, as well as for the other battery “Criticals,” and many other metals and minerals.

    With the Administration having endorsed an “All of the Above” strategy to secure our supply chains “soup to nuts,” as Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm phrased it earlier this week, here’s hoping that this broad-based approach will find swift application via policy, programs and projects.

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  • Biden Administration 100-Day Supply Chain Report Holds Surprise for Some: And the Winner is… Nickel?

    Critical Minerals policy-wonks:  if you wagered that Rare Earths would be the leading elements in the Biden 100-Day Report in terms of mentions, you’d be wrong. That’s right — we took a look at the Biden Administration’s just-released 100-day supply chain assessment, and created a word cloud based on the number of mentions (footnotes included) of [...]
  • If Copper is the New Oil, We Need to Prioritize Its Development

    A Bank of America commodity strategist warns that the world may be “running out of copper” amid widening supply and demand deficits. Suggesting that prices could hit $20,000 per metric ton by 2025, the strategist’s note called out that inventories are currently at levels seen 15 years ago, and that existing stocks may cover just [...]
  • Decarbonization Goals Expose Bottleneck in Critical Mineral Supply Chains — Us

    [Note from Sandra Wirtz: As ARPN digs through the White House Supply Chain Report, we are completing the week with posts that “preview” metals and minerals prominently mentioned in the Report – beginning with copper.] “The road to decarbonisation will be paved with copper (…) and a host of other minerals, all critical for electric [...]
  • Mining Industry Expert: “A Serious Conversation About Infrastructure and Clean Energy Must Start at the Beginning of the Supply Chain. It’s Time to Boost Domestic Supply of Copper”

    As was to be expected, President Joe Biden used his State of the Union address to both chambers of Congress to tout his American Jobs Plan, which has been billed as comprehensive package to make the economy more productive through investments in infrastructure, education, work force development and fighting climate change. And while nobody can [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Canada’s Just-Released List of 31 Critical Minerals Includes Key Gateway Metals

    As demand for critical minerals is increasing in the context of the global shift towards a green energy future, Canada’s Minister of Resources Seamus O’Regan Jr. earlier this week announced the release of a Canadian list of 31 metals and minerals deemed critical “for the sustainable economic success of Canada and our allies—minerals that can [...]
  • 2020 – A Watershed Year for Resource Policy

    ARPN’s Year in Review — a Cursory Review of the United States’ Critical Mineral Resource Challenge in 2020 It feels like just a few weeks ago many of us quipped that April 2020 seemed like the longest month in history, yet here we are: It’s mid-December, and we have almost made it through 2020. It’s [...]
  • Copper’s Anti-Microbial Properties Strike Again: Another Possible Breakthrough in the Fight to Stop Coronavirus Surface Transmission

    The ongoing coronavirus pandemic may derailed public life as we know it, but it has not slowed the pace at which the materials science revolution is yielding research breakthroughs. Whether it’s the development of vaccines, rapid tests, new treatment methods or novel materials for personal protective equipment (PPE) at neck-breaking speeds – we’re seeing innovation [...]

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