American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 100 Day Supply Chain Report Inspires New Developments in Critical Minerals Realm

    Released at the beginning of June, the White House’s 100 Day Supply Chain report assessed risks and vulnerabilities in the supply chains for four key industrial sectors, making recommendations on how to alleviate them appears to have already inspired several new developments in the critical minerals realm:

    As the Australian Financial Review’s U.S. correspondent Matthew Cranston reported last week, Australian mining company Ioneer has entered into an agreement with the world’s second largest manufacturer of battery components, South Korea’s EcoPro, under which it will sell up to a third of the Lithium produced at Ioneer’s Rhylite Ridge site in Nevada to the battery manufacturer. In doing so, “Ioneer will effectively supply the critical minerals that go into the production of Ford and Volkswagen electric vehicles in the US by supplying the South Korean-based EcoPro,” writes Cranston. Cranston calls the agreement “one of the first major deals since President Joe Biden’s decree to shift away from lower-standard Chinese critical mineral and component production in US supply chains.” That’s a Nevada-to-Korea-and-back-to-the-U.S. supply chain, de-coupling from China’s dominant EV battery sector.

    Expected to produce as much as 800,000 metric tons of Lithium over the next forty years at its Nevada mine site, Ioneer will supply up to 7,000 metric tons of Lithium carbonate to EcoPro per year over the course of three years under the agreement.

    A similar supply chain shift is evident in the Rare Earths sector, where Energy Fuels and Neo Performance Materials have joined forces to create a “new United States-to-Europe rare earth supply chain.” Earlier this month, a first container containing 20 metric tons of mixed rare earth carbonate shipped from Energy Fuel’s White Mesa Mill in Utah to Neo’s Silmet rare earth processing facility located in Estonia, where the materials will be separated into rare earth oxides and other rare earth compounds.

    According to Energy Fuels’s CEO Mark Chalmers, with Neo being the only commercial producer of separated rare earth oxides in Europe, product is being shipped to Estonia because “there is no next step in the United States. We ship to Estonia because that’s the only separation plant that makes the high purity rare earth elements in Europe.”

    Meanwhile, the company is planning to build a separation plant at White Mesa over the course of the next two to three years, with a potential prospect of incorporating other metals and alloys, as well as capabilities to manufacture REE permanent magnets.

    The deals tie into the “all of the above” approach embraced by the Biden Administration in its 100 Day Supply Chain Report and subsequent policy statements, which seeks to invest in “sustainable production, refining, and recycling capacity domestically,” while at the same time looking to “diversify supply chains away from adversarial nations and sources with unacceptable environmental and labor standards” by working closely with allies and partners.

    As these U.S.-to-Korea and U.S.-to-Estonia examples suggest, we can reasonably expect more deals remapping global supply chains in the coming weeks and months – and ARPN followers can reasonably expect that we will feature them when appropriate in the context of ARPN’s ongoing coverage of our nation’s critical mineral resource challenges.

  • 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.”

  • 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 [...]
  • Podcast: Battery Tech Supply Chain Expert Simon Moores Discusses Lithium Challenge

    American Jobs Plan, Green New Deal … irrespective of whether these plans will get implemented fully or in part, the renewable energy transition is already here, and it’s here to stay. The renewable energy sector has been transforming at neck-breaking speed, and with that, demand for the metals and minerals underpinning the green energy shift [...]
  • Tesla’s 20 Million Vehicles by 2030 Goal in Context

    Innovation. Disruption. That’s what Elon Musk and Tesla have become synonymous for — and for good reason. A recent claim made that Tesla would be able to reach production of 20 million vehicles per year before 2030, however, may be more of a stretch goal than a realistic number, as staff at Mining.com has recently [...]
  • USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries: Mineral Resource Dependencies Continue in 2020

    2020 may go down in history as the year in which our world changed drastically, but one thing remained largely steady, according to the latest USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries, one of our favorite reports which is hot off the press: Our nation’s mineral resource dependencies. However, as followers of ARPN will know, that is hardly [...]
  • Europe Forges Ahead With Battery Gigafactory Buildout As U.S. Still Struggles to Get Off Starting Block

    The current coronavirus pandemic may have thrown a wrench into the gears of many industries, but — against the backdrop of skyrocketing materials supply needs in the context of the green energy transition — Europe continues to forge ahead with the buildout of its large-scale battery gigafactory capacity.  According to London-based Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, whose [...]
  • 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 Panel Member: U.S. Must Turn to Building Out Critical Mineral Supply Chains Securing Both Inputs and Outputs

    Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), long one of the leaders on Capitol Hill pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s mineral resource policy, addressed the challenges of our nation’s over-reliance on foreign – and especially China-sourced critical metals and minerals against the backdrop of the current Coronavirus pandemic in a post [...]