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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • The Mineral Intensity of a Carbon-Neutral Future – A Look at Copper

    Amidst the global push towards carbon neutrality, “Critical Minerals” has become a buzzword.  As the green energy transition has gone mainstream and electric vehicles and renewable energy sources dominate the news cycle, so has talk about growing demand for some of the specialized materials underpinning this shift — most notably the Rare Earths, and the battery tech metals Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite and Nickel.   A little lost in the media shuffle, though no less important, is Copper — perhaps the unsung hero of the green energy transition.

    Less flashy and headline-grabbing than some of its tech metal peers, this mainstay mineral deserves far more credit and attention than it is currently getting.  Followers of ARPN will know that we have long touted the versatility, stemming from its traditional uses, new applications and Gateway Metal status.

    Copper is also an irreplaceable component for advanced energy technology, ranging from EVs over wind turbines and solar panels to the electric grid.   The manufacturing process for EVs requires four times more Copper than gas powered vehicles, and the expansion of electricity networks will lead to more than doubled Copper demand for grid lines, according to the IEA.

    A recent graphic by Visual Capitalist depicts the Copper intensity of the energy transition with a view towards solar and onshore and offshore wind energy technology:

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    Add in Copper’s Gateway Metal status — the processing of the metal yields access to a host of co-products essential to “manufacturing the advanced technologies that will power our economy for generations to come”  such as Cobalt, Tellurium, Molybdenum, Rhenium, Arsenic and REEs  — and a 2019 mining executive’s projection that “[t]he 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.

    Recent developments in Washington, D.C. — movement on a bipartisan infrastructure package and announcements of new EV goals and fuel efficiency standards — will only add to the outlined Copper demand scenarios.

    And the challenge is not just mining, but also processing, as Laura Skaer, a member of the board of directors of the Women’s Mining Coalition and former director of the American Exploration & Mining Association, outlined in a recent piece for Morning Consult:

    “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.”

    The United States Government failed in 2018 to include Copper in its official Critical Minerals list, a faux pas the Canadian government did not commit with the release of its own Critical Minerals list earlier this year, which included Copper along with fellow key Gateway Metals Nickel and Zinc in its list of 31.

    Meanwhile, the Biden Administration’s 100-Day Supply Chain Review highlights Copper as an integral component of Lithium-ion battery technology, in the context of being what we have called a “gateway metal” to other critical materials, and for its “use across many end-use applications aside from lithium-ion cells, including building construction, electrical and electronic products, transportation equipment, consumer and general products, and industrial machinery and equipment.” 

    Here’s hoping that the greater prominence given to Copper — both as a standalone material and Gateway Metal — by the White House 100-day report is an indication that a forthcoming updated U.S. Critical Minerals List will acknowledge the metal’s ever-growing importance.  Until then, Copper will remain one of the most “Critical Non-Criticals,” as we note in ARPN’s recent report, Critical Mass.

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  • Commentary: Fighting Global Climate Change Through Electrification is a Herculean Task

    In a new piece for Forbes, Jude Clemente, principal at JTC Energy Research Associates, LLC, outlines the size and scope of the ambitious climate goal of electrification to fight climate change, and discusses the underlying challenges associated with the shift. Clemente argues that the likely surge in electricity demand as the world seeks to decarbonize and shift more of our economy over to the electric grid is a “really big deal.”

    For electric cars, a statistic illustrates the magnitude of the change. Writes Clemente:

    “[W]e have 270 million oil-based cars (i.e., internal combustion engine) and only around 2 million that run on electricity. The amount of electricity that could be needed to change this may be incalculable but we know it is immense.”

    Clemente cites an analysis by experts at the University of California, Berkeley, which estimates that by 2035 the U.S. will need almost 90% more electricity than in 2018. This number assumes a scenario in which all passenger vehicles sold by 2030 are electric, and buildings and factories are also electrifying quickly.

    The challenge is compounded by the fact that “as we turn toward more intermittent renewables, electrification and the need for much more electricity must be met with reliability and resiliency,” which in turn “will require an immense build-out in new generation capacity.”

    “Scarily unmentioned,” according to Clemente – and of direct interest to all friends of ARPN — is the fact that the electric car and renewable power revolutions are “far more mineral intensive than the fossil fuel counterparts,” which has far-reaching national security implications because of the United States’ unnecessarily high degree of import reliance for critical minerals.

    And while the U.S. has been making progress with partnership agreements to manufacture lithium-ion batteries in the U.S., writes Clemente, “the bigger challenge for us than battery production is accessing the raw materials. For the energy transition, the Biden administration will need to support the full battery supply chain.”

    Clemente concludes with a nod to a 2019 Wall Street Journal piece by Mark Mills:

    “Overall, the U.S. has been appraised at ~$6.2 trillion in mineral resources, but we need a more streamlined permitting process. For example, considerable lithium reserves have been identified in Arkansas, California, Nevada, North Carolina and Utah.

    Indeed, if we truly want to fight climate change, it’s time to dig.”

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  • Copper and the 2018 Critical Minerals List – Considerations for Resource Policy Reform

    While we’re still waiting for policy makers and other stakeholders to take further action, in 2018 an important step was taken to set the stage for mineral resource policy reform with the release of the Department of Interior’s List of 35 Minerals Deemed Critical to U.S. National Security and the Economy. Throughout the drafting stage [...]
  • Jadarite and the Materials Science Revolution – “Kryptonite” to Alleviate Mineral Supply Concerns?

    In 2007, a new mineral found in Serbia made headlines around the world. “Kryptonite Discovered in Mine” – wrote the BBC about the discovery of a material the chemical formula of which – sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide – happened to match the one of the famed kryptonite stolen by Lex Luthor from a museum in the [...]
  • Cobalt’s Star Rising Even Further in Light of Breakthrough New Applications?

    Cobalt is a rising star among critical minerals, in large part because of its key role in battery technology.  However, that’s hardly the only reason. The ongoing materials science revolution has produced a new long-term use for Cobalt that may prove to be a technological breakthrough: A California-based company has announced that it has found [...]
  • A “Dangerous Dependence:”  Mineral Resource Security Goes Mainstream

    In recent weeks, we have seen a flurry of articles and commentaries in national publications discussing reforms to address our ever-growing reliance on foreign mineral resources.  The two most recent examples are member of the ARPN expert panel Jeffery A. Green’s piece in Real Clear Defense entitled “Dangerous Dependence on China for Critical Minerals Runs [...]
  • Sweden Tosses Hat Into Ring In Race For Materials Underpinning EV Revolution

    As the race for the metals and minerals driving the electric vehicle revolution heats up, and China continues to jockey for pole position, Sweden is tossing its hat into the ring.  According to recent media reports, the Swedish government has earmarked 10 million kronor ( roughly one million Euros) to explore the option of digging [...]
  • ICYMI – Video and Supporting Documents for AGI Webinar on “Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials”

    Last month, the American Geosciences Institute ran a webinar entitled “Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials.”  Speakers for the event, which discussed “efforts to gather information and develop tools that can be used to ensure a secure national and global supply of mineral resources, and identify and quantifying vulnerabilities in this supply, among others,” [...]
  • Lithium – A Material “Coming of Age” is Case in Point for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    As we have outlined, last month’s executive order on critical minerals could have far-reaching implications for our national security and economic wellbeing.  If you needed a case in point – look no further than Lithium. One of the hottest commodities of the day, Lithium, as ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral [...]
  • AGI to Host Webinar on Critical Minerals

    Mark your calendars – the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) will host a timely webinar on critical mineral issues later this month. The webinar entitled “Tracking the Global Supply of Critical Materials” will be held on Friday, January 26, 2018, at 11:00am EST, and will “focus on U.S. and European Union (EU) efforts to gather information [...]

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