American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 argue against the need to bolster our future competitiveness in clean energy and infrastructure, many in Washington, D.C. are “failing to acknowledge how much [it] depends on having a robust supply of metals and critical minerals”, writes Laura Skaer, a member of the board of directors of the Women’s Mining Coalition and former director of the American Exploration & Mining Association, in a new piece for Morning Consult.

    Skaer argues that metals and minerals like “[c]obalt, lithium, manganese, zinc, nickel, rare earths and silver are just some of the mineral building blocks for our modern economy.” Whether or not we produce them domestically or import them — they are “essential for the modern technologies and infrastructure President Joe Biden has proposed.”

    In spite of the fact that copper has not made the Department of Energy’s list of 35 minerals deemed critical to U.S. economic and national security — a fact that ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty lamented at the time — Skaer thinks that copper is in fact the “metal that is most needed.”

    She writes:

    “Electric vehicles use four times the amount of copper as conventional cars. Batteries, electric motors, charging stations, wind turbines, solar panels and transmission lines that deliver clean energy to the grid all rely on copper. And many copper byproducts like tellurium and molybdenum are essential to manufacturing the advanced technologies that will power our economy for generations to come.

    By 2050, the World Bank expects copper demand to rise by 200 percent. In the United States, there are only two active smelters capable of producing copper. Meanwhile, China and other countries are working overtime to bolster their smelting and refining capacity.

    Last year, the United States imported 37 percent of the copper we used. China already refines 50 percent of the world’s copper and the United States only refines about 3 percent. National security experts have warned that relying on China for critical supply-chain materials like refined copper poses a serious threat to America’s national security interests.”

    Recently-introduced federal legislation that would stop the development of a big copper mine near Superior, Arizona, which could supply a quarter of our nation’s copper demand and has strong support in the community, would, in Skaer’s view “close the door on a project that will benefit Arizona and the entire nation, expose the federal government to substantial takings claims, and send a signal to other companies that America is closed for business when it comes to mining.”

    Concludes Skaer:

    “The United States can become a domestic minerals supply-chain powerhouse — but not if Congress withdraws mining permission from areas where mineral development is a vital source of jobs and tax revenue.

    If we want to have a serious conversation about infrastructure and clean energy, we have to start at the beginning of the supply chain by boosting our domestic supply of copper. The inescapable fact is that mines can only be located in the few places where economically viable mineral deposits have been formed and discovered. Arizona’s Copper Triangle is one of those rare places.

    For the sake of the clean energy future so many Americans want and the national security and the economic investment we need, the Resolution Copper project must not be delayed any more.”

    To read her full piece, click here, and to learn more about the Women’s Mining Coalition, click here.

  • 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 infrastructure, along with manufacturing, research and development and clean energy.”

    The BlueGreen Alliance, a national network of labor unions and and environmental organizations, is here for it:

    “Strengthening and retooling our manufacturing sector to make today’s and tomorrow’s clean technologies and all products in cleaner ways, and modernizing our crumbling infrastructure to be safer and more energy efficient will protect our air and water, boost efforts to end economic and racial injustice, and create good union jobs across our nation,” Jason Walsh, executive director for the organization that is calling for at least $4 trillion in federal investment, said last month.

    It may be popular in many circles, but it is going to be a massive undertaking — not just because it will require trillions of dollars in investment.

    To use an infrastructure metaphor, we have already established that the road to a lower-carbon future is paved with critical metals and minerals — lots of them, as evidenced by last year’s World Bank report entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” which estimated that production of metals and minerals underpinning the shift, such as the battery tech metals graphite, lithium and cobalt, would have to increase by nearly 500 percent by 2050 to meet global demand for renewable energy technology. To achieve the transition to a below 2°C pathway as outlined by the Paris Agreement, the deployment of wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage will require more than three billion tons of minerals and metals.

    A similar scenario unfolds for overhauling America’s infrastructure, which, undeniably, is crumbling. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card assigned a D+ to America’s roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure. With an update of the quadrennial report due this year, and infrastructure reform having fizzled after a first push during the Trump Administration, there is no reason to expect a better grade this time around.

    The sheer need for mainstay materials like steel and copper for construction and wiring or zinc for galvanization already make clear that we’re looking at another mineral intensive component of the Biden Agenda. But it’s not just old school transportation infrastructure that is in dire need of an overhaul.

    ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty made it clear in a piece for Investors Business Daily in the early days of the Trump Administration:

    “This isn’t your grandfather’s infrastructure. Bridges, tunnels and roads are just part of the story. Today, our infrastructure extends to the national power grid — currently a patchwork of lines, nodes and often antique switching towers we rely on to move energy to where we need it — to the internet itself, which has a physicality we easily overlook in this Age of the Cloud and Wireless. These systems, marvels that they are, come closer to tin-can-and-string contraptions than the modern version we would build if we began the work today.”

    With that, comes another layer of material inputs — lots of copper for wiring, but also battery tech metals like lithium, graphite, nickel and vanadium for energy storage, to name but a few.

    Meanwhile, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has highlighted our nation’s over-reliance on critical metals and minerals underpinning the above-referenced goals of a lower-carbon future coupled with a comprehensive infrastructure overhaul.

    How do we reconcile massive material inputs and sustainably “Building Back Better”? The challenge is big, and will likely require an “all-of-the-above” approach — but thankfully, as we previously pointed out, is “increasingly ‘recognizing [its] responsibility and trying to meet the increased expectations of consumers, society and governments” to contribute towards the push towards a greener energy future.’ In its growing efforts to do so, it is harnessing “advances in materials science and technology to meet the challenge of restoring a balance between mining and environmental protection.”

    As Washington D.C. delves into part two of President Biden’s “Build Back Better,” agenda, we will continue to highlight initiatives by mining companies to “close the loop,” ranging from overhauling supply chain policies to ensure suppliers conform to certain environmental and social standards, to incorporating renewable power sources into their operations to offset some of the carbon costs of resource development — as we have done in the past (take a look here and here).

    Stay tuned for the next roundup.

  • 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 [...]
  • Copper in the Fight against Coronavirus, Infectious Diseases: Vancouver Installs Anti-Microbial Copper Surfaces in Public Transit System

    Amidst election chaos and surging coronavirus case numbers, we got a piece of good news early this week when pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a vaccine candidate they had developed was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in study participants in their first interim efficacy analysis. Great news indeed [...]
  • Materials Science Revolution in the Fight against COVID — Copper Continues to Lead the Charge

    Copper is arguably one of the key mainstay metals and building blocks of modern society.  However, in recent years — and most certainly over the past few months as the coronavirus pandemic has spanned the globe, its antimicrobial properties — known and appreciated already by the Ancients — have re-entered the spotlight. Reports of novel [...]
  • Demand for Certain Metals and Minerals to Increase by Nearly 500%, According to New World Bank Study

    At ARPN, we have long argued that the current push towards a lower-carbon future is not possible without mining, as green energy technology relies heavily on a score of critical metals and minerals. The World Bank’s latest report, entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” published earlier this week in the context of the [...]
  • Copper at the Frontlines – Hong Kong to Distribute Face Masks Containing Copper to Its Citizens

    Known and appreciated already by the Ancients for its antimicrobial properties, Copper has recently entered into the discourse over how to fight the current coronavirus outbreak and future pandemics.   A case in point is a new Assembly bill in New York, which seeks to reduce the spread of infection by requiring all new construction [...]
  • Against Backdrop of COVID-19, State Assembly Bill Calls for Use of Antimicrobial Copper in Public Construction

    Legislation introduced in the State Assembly of New York, a state that has been hit particularly hard by the current coronavirus pandemic, would require publicly funded construction projects to use antimicrobial copper. The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Marcy), would “require all new construction projects receiving state funding to use copper alloy touch surfaces [...]