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  • 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.

  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: DoE Funds Carbon Capture Project in Minnesota

    As the global push towards a low carbon energy future intensifies, the mining industry has been taking significant steps towards reducing its carbon footprint.

    As friends of ARPN will appreciate, the catalyst is the materials science revolution redefining how the world uses scores of metals and minerals for technology applications unknown just a few years ago. Enter the concept of carbon capture, which — as Reuters columnist Andy Home recently suggested – “could allow some to move beyond neutrality to become net carbon negative.” 

    Home notes that while “[t]he technology for industrial-scale carbon capture and storage is still in its infancy and largely untested,” there are certain minerals that “do it naturally,” and harnessing their potential could in fact turn miners — who “tend to be the perennial villains in the environmental debate,” into “the unlikely pioneers of large-scale and permanent carbon storage.”

    Case in point:  the U.S. Department of Energy’s $2.2. million award to fund to a Rio Tinto-led project with joint-venture partner Talon Metals Corp. at the Tamarack Nickel Project in central Minnesota to achieve carbon capture by a process that mineralizes the carbon in rock – a process far more stable than methods that inject carbon, where it remains vulnerable to seepage and fracturing due to earthquakes.

    Experts believe that harnessing the natural chemical reactions that convert captured CO2 into rock and stored underground, as currently done at large scale by carbon mineralization company Carbfix at its Coda Terminal in Iceland (see our piece on the issue here), could become an important asset in the push to meet global climate goals, which is why this  new public-private partnership deserves a feature in ARPN’s Materials Science Profiles of Progress series.

    In the context of this series, ARPN has been highlighting public-private partnerships that are fueling the materials science revolution which is transforming the ways in which we use and obtain metals and minerals and their work to develop practical solutions to critical minerals issues.

    With the help of the just-announced funding via the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E Innovation Challenge the project, to which Rio Tinto will contribute an additional $4 million, seeks to explore “new approaches in carbon mineralization technology as a way to safely and permanently store carbon as rock.”

    The company’s technical experts will work with consortium partners from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Columbia University, plus private-sector partners Carbfix and Advantek Waste Management.  The project will leverage insight and build on the findings from PNNL’s Wallula Basalt Carbon Storage Pilot Project in Southeastern Washington State, where researchers successfully performed the first supercritical CO2 injection into a basalt reservoir in 2013 and demonstrated the potential to transform CO2 into a “solid form that is immobile and poses no risk of leakage.” 

    At a time when the Biden Administration is grappling to reconcile its green credentials with the acknowledged need for domestic resource development, the significance of carbon capture opportunity cannot be overstated, as, in the words of Andy Home, it “could inject a whole new dimension into the heated debate around new mines and metals plants.”

  • Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm Commits to “Soup to Nuts” Strategy, with Critical Minerals Being “Part and Parcel” of Renewable Energy Production

    During last week’s Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on President Joe Biden’s FY 2022 budget request for the Department of Energy, Senators questioned Secretary Jennifer Granholm on the Department’s view on the role of critical minerals in energy production. Watch the archived webcast here. Sec. Granholm stated that critical minerals are “part [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Russia Pushes for Global Rare Earth Market Share as U.S. Struggles to Move Forward With Critical Minerals Initiatives

    Russia is certainly making headlines this week.  Quite obviously, much of the media attention is focused around President Vladimir Putin’s declaration that Russia has approved a vaccine for the coronavirus (after less than two months of testing) — but developments in the critical minerals realm also warrant attention: A top Russian government official has told [...]
  • ARPN’s Wirtz: “COVID Should Be the Last Warning the U.S. Needs to Bolster Mineral Resource Security”

    ***Posted by Daniel McGroarty*** “The current coronavirus pandemic has exposed significant supply chain challenges associated with our over-reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) raw materials,” — writes ARPN’s Sandra Wirtz in a new piece for The Economic Standard:   “PPE has become the poster child, but whether it’s smart phone technology, solar panels, electric vehicles, or [...]
  • ARPN Expert Zeroes in on Issues Surrounding Uranium – an “Underappreciated Energy Source”

    In a new series for Capital Research Center, Ned Mamula, member of the ARPN expert panel, adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, and co-author of “Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence,” takes a closer look at Uranium – an “underappreciated energy source.”  In the four-part-part series, Mamula [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: DoE’s New Research Center on Lithium Battery Recycling to Leverage Resources of Private Sector, Universities and National Laboratories

    Speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Energy Innovation Council last week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the launch of a new research center on lithium battery recycling. The Battery Recycling R&D Center will focus on reclaiming and recycling “critical materials (e.g. cobalt and lithium) from lithium based battery technology used in consumer electronics, defense, energy [...]
  • “Materials Science Profiles of Progress” – REE Extraction From Coal

    In the fairy tale realm, Rumpelstilskin was able to turn straw into gold. Meanwhile, in the real world, as part of our feature series “Materials Science Profiles of Progress,” we’re taking a closer look at a recently-announced research partnership that may not be able to turn straw into gold, but promises to extract precious Rare [...]