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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • 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 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).

    Here’s what it looks like:

    EA75ED84-A679-4D0B-B842-602873A2DB9DIt may come as no surprise that Lithium and Cobalt are prominently featured (Lithium is mentioned 315 times and Cobalt appears 167 times) — after all we find ourselves in a “battery arms race.”

    And, of course, the Rare Earths made the cut with 105 mentions[1], but what may surprise you is that Nickel — a non-Critical, at least in terms of the official U.S. Government Critical Minerals List of 2018 – takes the bronze with a whopping 146 references.   And fellow non-Critical Copper also racks up a Top Ten appearance, with 29 references.

    In the Department of Energy-led supply chain assessment chapter, DoE notes under the Nickel sub-header for “Mapping the Supply Chain” 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.”

    DoE continues:

    “In contrast to cobalt, nickel content per battery will increase in the coming years, as R&D focused on high-nickel in cathodes has shown significant and accelerated commercial adoption. The potential shortfall from this increase in demand poses a supply chain risk for battery manufacturing globally, not just in the United States; given the pervasive need, the established nickel industry is ramping up production and processing, and the United States is falling further behind China in this critical material.”

    Copper is highlighted in the 100-Day Report 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.”

    ARPN followers can claim an I-told-you-so here.  After all, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty urged the U.S. Government to include both Nickel and Copper in the 2018 official government list of critical minerals in his Public Comment submission.

    With that brief moment of vindication, let’s move on to say that the Biden Administration is right to give prominence to Nickel and Copper in its strategy.

    As Reuters’s Andy Home points out,

    “Nickel isn’t on the U.S. list of critical minerals. Although the country depends on imports, 68% of supplies come from what the report calls “allied nations” such as Canada, Australia, Norway and Finland.

    But the Department of Energy (DOE) has identified Class 1 nickel, the type best suited to lithium-ion batteries, as both a key vulnerability and key opportunity. (…)”

    As the White House 100-Day Report notes:

    “Eagle Mine is the only active nickel mine in the U.S. today, and its lifetime is set to end in 2025.”

    Home acknowledges this fact and continues:

    “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.’”

    For Copper, one need to look no further than the latest IEA report which estimates that, driven by the Electric Vehicle revolution, copper demand will be 25 times greater in 2040 than it was in 2020.

    Thankfully, the U.S. does not have to look far for opportunities to strengthen our position for both Nickel and Copper. The Tamarack Nickel project in Minnesota hosts a high-grade Nickel deposit, along with Copper and Cobalt as co-products.  As for Copper, several of our recent posts provide an insight into domestic opportunities.

    As the Department of Energy concludes:

    “The United States must adopt a set of tools to increase domestic battery manufacturing while improving the resilience of the lithium battery supply chain, including the sourcing and processing of the critical minerals used in battery production.”

    It’s a behemoth task, but, the good news is that  in light of the United States’ mineral riches and technical knowhow the “All of the Above” approach embraced in the Biden Administration’s strategy can start at home.

     


    [1] For the purpose of this word cloud, we counted all mentions of “Rare Earth(s)” as a group in both text and footnotes. We did not include mentions of the individual rare earth elements with the exception of Scandium, which is also treated separately by the 2018 official U.S. Government list of 35 critical minerals. Note that our word cloud generator left off several of the 35 critical minerals because they were either not mentioned at all or received very few mentions.

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  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Is it Time for a GigaMine? Metal Tech News’s Lasley on the Prospect of Tesla GigaMines

    Earlier this month, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of tech giant Tesla, made headlines with his call on global mining companies to boost production of nickel, a key component in EV battery technology. “Any mining companies out there … wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel,” he said, adding “Tesla will give [...]
  • U.S. To Pursue National Electric Vehicle Supply Chain

    ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Simon Moores must have struck a nerve when he called the U.S. a “bystander” in the current battery arms race during a recent Congressional hearing. His message  —  “Those who control these critical raw materials and those who possess the manufacturing and processing know how, will [...]
  • U.S. Currently Bystander in Global Battery Arms Race, ARPN Expert Tells U.S. Senate Committee

    A key global player, the United States is not used to being a bystander. Yet this is exactly what is currently happening, says Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Managing Director Simon Moores, addressing the full U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this morning. Delivering his testimony on the outlook for energy and minerals market in [...]
  • U.S. Senate to Hold Hearing on Energy and Mineral Markets, Member of ARPN Expert Panel to Testify

    We’ve called it “the new black.” The Guardian even went as far as ringing in the “Ion Age.”  Bearing testimony to the growing importance of battery technology, the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing examining the outlook for energy and minerals markets in the 116th Congress on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 with an emphasis on battery [...]
  • Gold Leapfrogged by “Obscure and Far Less Sexy” Metal – A Look at Palladium

    Valuable and precious, Gold, for example in jewelry, is a popular go-to for gifts during the holidays.  Who knew that gold’s luster would be dimmed by a metal that “scrubs your exhaust,” as the New York Times phrased it?  It may still not end up under many Christmas trees, but Palladium, an “obscure and far less sexy [...]

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