Friday 26th May 2017

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘lithium’

Equitorial Exploration expands Utah lithium claims

May 24th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 24, 2017

Pleased with geophysical results from its Tule Valley lithium project in Utah, Equitorial Exploration TSXV:EXX has increased its holdings to take in the entire Tule Valley Basin. A ground gravity survey shows “the Tule Valley fill has a depth of over 500 metres in the western portion of the property” and “the valley fill deepens further than 500 metres heading east from the current claim blocks,” Equitorial stated.

Equitorial Exploration expands Utah lithium claims

As a closed basin, Tule Valley might
host an extremely mineralized brine.

As a result the company staked another 1,092 hectares, expanding the property to about 2,792 hectares. Equitorial plans to drill the property this season.

The company also has discussions underway with other parties to assess methods of extracting metals from water.

Equitorial characterizes the Tule Valley as a closed basin in which surface water and groundwater flowing into the basin have no escape route. Surface evaporation leaves minerals dissolved in brines and evaporation pools. In that respect Tule Valley might be similar to Nevada’s Clayton Valley, the company added.

The road-accessible property sits about 190 kilometres from Salt Lake City.

Equitorial’s two other lithium projects include the Gerlach property in Nevada, which the company describes as an under-explored closed basin “in an area structurally comparable to that of Clayton Valley.” In the Northwest Territories, the company holds the Little Nahanni Pegmatite Group property, for which Equitorial filed a 43-101 technical report last March.

Voltaic Minerals project manager Tom Currin comments on selective extraction tests for the company’s Green Energy lithium brine project in Utah

May 19th, 2017

…Read more

Far Resources hastens 100% acquisition of Manitoba lithium project

May 9th, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 9, 2017

Encouraged by exploration results and a substantial price reduction, Far Resources CSE:FAT will take a 100% interest in its Zoro hard rock lithium property earlier than planned. The company expects to close the deal on May 9.

Far Resources hastens 100% acquisition of Manitoba lithium project

An expedited acquisition gives Far Resources
a 100% stake in its northern Manitoba project.

An accelerated payment plan calls for six million shares at a deemed price of $0.10, as well as $100,000 payable within a year. That’s on top of a previous $50,000 and one million shares. The new deal cuts the price by $200,000, Far Resources stated.

Last week the company announced sample results of 1.35% and 2.91% Li2O that surpassed historic results of 0.46% and 0.5% from the same pegmatite dyke on the Snow Lake-region project. Zoro hosts seven known spodumene-bearing pegmatite dykes.

Meanwhile the company awaits drill results from a Phase II program that finished last month. Seven holes totalling 1,088 metres targeted Zoro’s Dyke #1, where one hole found spodumene-bearing pegmatite over 53.7 metres and another found coarse spodumene crystals over 12.2 metres. Last year’s Phase I program brought grades up to 1.13% Li2O over 12.1 metres and 1.1% over 23.4 metres.

In New Mexico, Far Resources has a purchase agreement for the Winston silver-gold project pending approvals and due diligence.

Infographic: Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

May 8th, 2017

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | May 8, 2017

Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

 

Cathodes the key to advancing lithium-ion technology

The inner-workings of most commercialized batteries are typically pretty straightforward.

The lead-acid battery, which is the traditional battery used in the automotive sector, is as easy as it gets. Put two lead plates in sulphuric acid and you’re off to the races.

However, lithium-ion batteries are almost infinitely more complex than their predecessors. That’s because “lithium-ion” refers to a mechanism—the transfer of lithium ions—which can occur in a variety of cathode, anode and electrolyte environments. As a result, there’s not just one type of lithium-ion battery, but instead the name acts as an umbrella that represents thousands of different formulations that could work.

The cathode’s importance

This infographic comes to us from Nano One Materials TSXV:NNO, a Canadian tech company that specializes in battery materials, and it provides interesting context on lithium-ion battery advancements over the last couple of decades.

Since the commercialization of the lithium-ion battery in the 1990s, there have been relatively few developments in the materials or technology used for anodes and electrolytes. For example, graphite is still the material of choice for anodes, though researchers are trying to figure out how to make the switch to silicon. Meanwhile, the electrolyte is typically a lithium salt in an organic solvent (except in lithium-ion polymer batteries).

Cathodes, on the other hand, are a very different story. That’s because they are usually made up of metal oxides or phosphates—and there are many different possible combinations that can be used.

Here are five examples of commercialized cathode formulations and the metals needed for them (aside from lithium):

Cathode Type Chemistry Example Metal Portions Example Use
NCA LiNiCoAlO2 80% nickel, 15% cobalt, 5% aluminum Tesla Model S
LCO LiCoO2 100% cobalt Apple iPhone
LMO LiMn2O4 100% manganese Nissan Leaf
NMC LiNiMnCoO2 nickel 33.3%, manganese 33.3%, cobalt 33.3% Tesla Powerwall
LFP LiFePO4 100% iron Starter batteries

Lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, aluminum and iron are just some of the metals used in current lithium-ion batteries out there—and each battery type has considerably different properties. The type of cathode chosen can affect the energy density, power density, safety, cycle life and cost of the overall battery, and this is why researchers are constantly experimenting with new ideas and combinations.

Drilling down

For companies like Tesla, which wants the exit rate of lithium-ion cells to be faster than “bullets from a machine gun,” the cathode is of paramount importance. Historically, it’s where most advancements in lithium-ion battery technology have been made.

Cathode choice is a major factor for determining battery energy density and cathodes also typically account for 25% of lithium-ion battery costs. That means the cathode can impact both the performance and cost pieces of the $/kWh equation—and building a better cathode will likely be a key driver for the success of the green revolution.

Luckily, the future of cathode development has many exciting prospects. These include concepts such as building cathodes with layered-layered composite structures or orthosilicates, as well as improvements to the fundamental material processes used in cathode assembly.

As these new technologies are applied, the cost of lithium-ion batteries will continue to decrease. In fact, experts are now saying that it won’t be long before batteries will hit $80 per kWh—a cost that would make EVs undeniably cheaper than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

Related:

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Cobalt’s Congo conundrum

May 3rd, 2017

The battery market’s DRC dependency can only grow, says Benchmark

by Greg Klein

“If there’s any nation that contributes over 50% of supply for a mineral, alarm bells start to go off.” That’s especially true when the country is as troubled as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Caspar Rawles told a Vancouver conference on April 21. Social and political instability combined with child labour concerns intensify what he calls the “cobalt conundrum,” in which battery manufacturers have no choice but to increase their reliance on DRC resources. That’s his forecast, even as he acknowledges demand for new sources from elsewhere.

The DRC easily dominates global cobalt, with 64% of mined supply according to the most recent Benchmark figures. No more reassuring, China dominates refined supply with 57%. Without significant cobalt reserves of its own, the country holds a prominent position in DRC mining, where the energy ingredient results as a byproduct of copper extraction.

The battery market’s DRC dependency can only grow, says Benchmark

That position expanded this year with the Freeport-McMoRan NYSE:FCX/Lundin Mining TSX:LUN sale of their DRC Tenke Fungurume copper-cobalt mine to China Molybdenum and a Chinese private equity firm. An anticipated and equally geopolitically feckless follow-up would be the American/Canadian JV’s sale of its Finnish cobalt refinery to the same people. By processing Fungurume ore, the facility provides about 10% of the world’s refined supply, Rawles says.

For all the disturbing news coming out of the Congo, “there will be no lithium-ion battery industry without DRC cobalt,” Rawles maintains. “We expect cobalt supply from the DRC to become more dominant in the market, and that’s because of where the large projects are, plus-10,000 tonnes a year.”

Yet by no means is Congo cobalt necessarily conflict cobalt, even when artisanal supply is considered. Some artisanal operations are perfectly legal, he says, while media-reported numbers can be “inflated.”

Tackling the issue presents difficulties, Rawles says. Companies often mine a small part of huge concessions, with no power to prevent the desperately poor from working other parts of the claims. The only people with any such power in the DRC “are the mining police and they just confiscate the material, they don’t take away the problem. It’s a longstanding problem and it’s going to take time to resolve.”

Not surprisingly, “substitution is definitely something that cathode companies are working on,” he points out. Not all cathodes require cobalt, unlike lithium. Even so, he sees about 81% of the market continuing to use cobalt cathodes.

As the Li-ion battery market grows from 70 GWh last year to Benchmark’s estimated 170 GWh in 2020, “cobalt demand will be high but won’t surpass supply.” Beyond 2020, Rawles predicts a deficit growing to 2023, then ending around 2024 or 2025.

“The only thing that can accelerate a reduction in cobalt is supply disruption,” he adds. Critics of DRC President Joseph Kabila attribute the country’s delayed elections to his determination to retain power after 16 years in office. Protests have resulted in scores of fatalities, raising fears of even wider civil unrest.

Another possible impact on supply/demand forecasts could come “if EVs take off even more quickly than we expect.”

The DRC hosts the world’s two big near-term copper-cobalt operations, Glencore’s majority-held Katanga mine and Eurasian Resources Group’s Metalkol Roan Tailings Reclamation project. Rawles expects Katanga to resume production early next year after its 2015 suspension. While the project’s technical report sets annual cobalt capacity at 30,000 tonnes, he expects the early years will probably realize half of that.

There will be demand from certain companies that don’t want to touch DRC cobalt.—Caspar Rawles,
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence

RTR’s slated for 2019 startup, Rawles says. ERG targets an initial 14,000 tonnes of cobalt annually, increasing to 20,000 tonnes over the next three to five years.

So despite “a number of other, smaller projects in the pipeline,” DRC dominance will prevail. Still, Rawles does see opportunity for other sources of cobalt. But new suppliers will have to follow a “value-added strategy,” he argues. They must produce a cobalt chemical that meets a manufacturer’s precise requirements. And the suppliers need to do that without refining their product in China, where it might be blended with conflict supply.

“That’s how they can brand themselves,” he says. “There’s going to be demand for that. Certainly the large supply is going to come from the DRC and if you’re really serious about EVs, that’s where the cobalt’s going to come from. It’s not going to happen without that.”

But, he emphasizes, “there will be demand from certain companies that don’t want to touch DRC cobalt.”

Lithium samples surpass historic assays on Far Resources’ Zoro property in Manitoba

May 2nd, 2017

by Greg Klein | May 2, 2017

As the company awaits drill results, Far Resources CSE:FAT reported two new sample assays that improve on historic grades from the Zoro hard rock lithium project in Manitoba’s Snow Lake mining region. The samples came from Dyke #7, one of seven known spodumene-bearing pegmatite dykes on claims added to the property last summer.

Lithium samples surpass historic assays on Far Resources’ Zoro property in Manitoba

With a nearby lake providing water for drilling, Zoro can
be reached by highway and helicopter or boat and ATV.

The two composite rock chip samples that the company gathered from previously blasted trenches graded 1.35% and 2.91% Li2O. That compares with historic results using older analytical techniques for the same dyke showing 0.46% and 0.5% Li2O.

Last July Far Resources compared new samples with historic results from three other dykes on the new claims. The more recent assays for Dyke #2 showed 2.71% and 3.53% Li2O, compared with historic results of 1.66% and 1.69%.

An assay for Dyke #4 came to 2.41%, compared with an historic 1.12%.

Dyke #5 results ranged from 1.46% to 6.35%, compared with the historic range from 2.42% to 7.28%.

The company plans to compile the new results with a revised geologic database to plan a spring program of ground-based mapping and exploration. Findings will be integrated with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data that measures elevation.

Meanwhile assays are pending for the seven-hole, 1,088-metre Phase II drill program that wrapped up last month on Zoro’s Dyke #1. One hole revealed spodumene-bearing pegmatite over 53.7 metres, while another found coarse spodumene crystals over 12.2 metres.

Seven holes from last year’s Dyke #1 program also found lithium-bearing pegmatite, with intervals grading up to 1.13% Li2O over 12.1 metres and 1.1% over 23.4 metres.

In March the company announced a purchase agreement for the Winston silver-gold project in New Mexico, subject to approvals and due diligence.

Lithium-ion’s bigger picture

April 25th, 2017

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

by Greg Klein

He dates it to what he calls “lithium’s Big Bang,” the February 2014 announcement of Tesla’s first gigafactory. New investment rejuvenated the juniors, as they set out in search of new supply. But “it’s not just the metals and mining space that’s seen an influx of capital,” Chris Berry points out. As an independent consultant to asset managers, he’s spent a lot of time over the last 18 months “talking to what I call new types of money that are trying to understand the lithium-ion space.”

He brought his perspective to Vancouver on the April 21 stop of the Benchmark Mineral Intelligence World Tour.

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

Although lithium prices continue their ascent, the battery-powered revolution is “really rooted in economics,” explained the president of House Mountain Partners and editor of the Disruptive Discoveries Journal. “I don’t think this technology-driven deflation in battery prices can really be stopped…. Lithium-ion battery prices have fallen 60% in the last three years alone, just since the gigafactory announcement.”

With more battery megafactories coming (Benchmark currently tracks 15 existing or planned projects), he believes price deflation will “continue, perhaps intensify, for the next five to 10 years.”

That can only encourage further electric vehicle sales. And apart from the practical advantages of EVs, driving them is “a really transformative experience. There really is nothing like it,” he maintains.

There’s no questioning future demand for energy minerals, he insists. But there is a question of whether supply “will overshoot or undershoot.”

Even so he sees “a very robust supply chain response” that goes beyond Albemarle NYSE:ALB, FMC NYSE:FMC and SQM NYSE:SQM to include, for example, Intel’s $15-billion takeout of driverless car designer Mobileye, Chinese EV/energy storage manufacturer BYD’s plans to boost its battery production to megafactory stature and Beijing-based search engine giant Baidu’s cash injection into NextEV. “This entire lithium-ion supply chain is continuing to grow, continuing to see huge investment,” Berry emphasized.

“The beauty of it is there are a number of different ways you can gain exposure.” Fund managers and others with deep pockets might compare Albemarle with SQM, but Berry suggested also comparing the “risk/reward paradigm” of such companies with an outfit like Nano One Materials TSXV:NNO, a Vancouver-based company working to transform battery design.

Chris Berry looks beyond exploration and mining to the battery supply chain

Chris Berry: “This entire lithium-ion supply
chain is continuing to grow, continuing
to see huge investment.”

Of course the pace of new development raises questions about operating margins. “Does it make sense to focus on a company like Albemarle that has a 40% EBITDA profit margin?” he asked. “Or does it make sense to go further down the supply chain and think about a company like Panasonic, much different than Albemarle but still heavily invested and involved in the lithium supply chain? The challenge, I would argue, with Panasonic is that they are going to get a tremendous amount of competition from BYD, Tesla and a number of other battery manufacturers. So the profit margin of Panasonic, despite being one of the biggest players in the space, is going to shrink.”

Looking back at lithium exploration and development projects, Berry said different extraction technologies offer miners and would-be miners additional opportunities to leverage themselves to investors.

For all that, one of Berry’s concluding remarks must have taken many attendees by surprise. Benchmark managing director Simon Moores asked why attention so often focuses on lithium and not other battery materials.

Berry’s response? “I would actually be the most optimistic about nickel, cobalt and lithium in that order.” But noting China’s long-term strategy in building supply chains, he added, “The interesting thing about lithium relative to other niche metals is that China doesn’t have a stranglehold on it.”

Nevertheless, he cautioned, about 60% of battery capacity comes from China.

Read about Simon Moores discussing the rise of battery megafactories.

Converging on batteries

April 23rd, 2017

Benchmark sees big investors wakening as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

by Greg Klein

It’s “a sign of the times that big investors with big money are starting to look at this space in a serious way,” Simon Moores declared. “We’re seeing it with lithium, that’s just starting. And I think we’re going to see it with the other raw materials as well.” To that he attributes the automotive, high-tech and energy sectors for their “convergence of three multi-trillion-dollar industries on batteries.”

Addressing a Vancouver audience on the April 21st inaugural stop of the third annual Benchmark Mineral Intelligence World Tour, he pointed out that cobalt and graphite have yet to match lithium for investors’ attention. But not even lithium has drawn the financing needed to maintain supply over the long term.

Benchmark sees investment lagging as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

While EVs still lead the battery-powered revolution, energy storage
will become more prominent after 2020, according to Simon Moores.

Back in 2006, batteries accounted for 22% of lithium demand. Ten years later the amount came to 42%. “We believe in 2020, 67% of lithium will be used for batteries.”

What’s now driving the battery market, almost literally, is electric vehicles. Energy storage will play a more prominent role from about 2020 onwards, he maintained.

He sees three cars in particular that should lead the trend: Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. As consumers turn to pure electric vehicles with battery packs increasing capacity to the 60 to 70 kWh range and beyond, the industry will sell “hundreds of thousands of cars rather than tens of thousands… the era of the semi-mass market for EVs is beginning and it’s beginning now, this year.”

Last year’s lithium-ion market reached 70 GWh, Moores said. Forecasts for 2025 range from Bloomberg’s low of about 300 GWh to Goldman Sachs’ 440 GWh and a “pretty bullish” 530 GWh from Cairn Energy Research Advisors. As for Benchmark, “we’re at the lower end” with a base case of about 407 GWh.

“What does that mean for lithium demand? A lot of raw materials will be needed and the investment in that space is just starting.”

Lithium’s 2016 market came to about 80,000 tonnes. By 2020, demand will call for something like 180,000 to 190,000 tonnes. While battery-grade graphite demand amounted to about 100,000 tonnes last year, “by 2020, that will be just over 200,000 tonnes.” As for battery-grade cobalt, last year’s market came to just under 50,000 tonnes. “By 2020 it’s going to need to get to about 80,000 to 85,000.”

Benchmark sees investment lagging as three huge sectors chase three vital minerals

Simon Moores: “No other mineral
out there has this kind of price profile.”

Investment so far favours lithium but for each of the three commodities, it’s “not enough, not for the long term,” he stressed.

Three years ago only two battery megafactories had been envisioned. Now in operation, under construction or being planned are 15, with the number expected to grow. “That’s going to be needed if we’re ever going to get anywhere near the forecast that everyone’s saying. Not just us, not just Bernstein or Goldman Sachs, everyone is saying significant growth is here but investment is needed.”

But although Tesla gets most of the headlines, “the new lithium-ion industry is a China-centric story.” The vast majority of megafactories are Chinese plants or joint ventures with Chinese entities operating in South Korea or Japan. “The majority of their product goes to China.”

At the end of last month lithium carbonate averaged $12,313 a tonne while lithium hydroxide averaged about $17,000. Spot deals in China, meanwhile, have surpassed $20,000.

That compares with prices between 2005 and 2008 of around $4,000 for lithium carbonate and $4,500 for lithium hydroxide. Only slightly higher were averages for 2010 to 2014. But prices spiked in 2015 and 2016. “Between now and 2020 we believe lithium carbonate will be in and around an average of $13,000 a tonne and lithium hydroxide will be closer to $18,000 a tonne.”

Those long-term averages “are important for people building mines and investing in this space.”

Except for 2010, lithium prices have shown 11 years of increases, corresponding with battery demand. “No other mineral out there has this kind of price profile.”

Moores sees no oversupply or price crash for lithium in the next five years. Spodumene-sourced lithium “will fill the short-term supply deficit and brines will help fill the longer-term supply deficit post-2019 and 2020,” he said. “Both are needed to have a strong, balanced industry in the future.”

Turning to graphite, he noted that batteries had zero effect on the market in 2006. By 2016 they accounted for 16% of demand. By 2020, that number should jump to 35%.

While flake graphite comprises the feedstock for most anode material, “really, the price you should look at is spherical graphite.” That’s fallen lately to about $2,800 a tonne.

Moores foresees better margins for companies producing uncoated spherical graphite. “The people who make the coated will also make good margins, but not as good as in the past. For this reason, and because battery buyers are becoming more powerful and there’s more competition in the space, we believe the coated spherical graphite price will actually fall in the long term average, but will still be between $8,000 and $12,000 a tonne. So there’s very high value and significant demand for this material.”

He also sees natural graphite increasing its anode market share over synthetic graphite. “That’s a cost issue primarily, but there are green issues too.”

Silicon, he added, “will play a part in anodes but it will be an additive, not a replacement.”

Speaking with ResourceClips.com after the event, Moores said Benchmark World Tour attendees differ by city. The Vancouver audience reflected the resource sector, as well as fund managers attracted by BMO Capital Markets’ sponsorship. Tokyo and Seoul events draw battery industry reps. Silicon Valley pulls in high-tech boffins.

This year’s tour currently has 15 cities scheduled with two more under consideration, he noted. That compares with eight locations on the first tour in 2015. Moores attributed the success to Benchmark’s access to pricing and other sensitive info, as well as Benchmark’s site visits. “We go to China and other countries and visit the mines,” he said. “Our travel budget is through the roof. We’re not desktop analysts.”

Belmont Resources has drilling imminent for Nevada lithium

April 19th, 2017

by Greg Klein | April 19, 2017

In search of lithium-bearing brines similar to those of the Clayton Valley, 65 kilometres south, drilling could resume any day now at Belmont Resources’ (TSXV:BEA) Kibby Basin project. Having attempted sonic drilling in February, the company now has Harris Exploration Drilling and Associates mobilizing a track-mounted rig for an HQ program to possible depths of about 300 metres.

Belmont Resources has drilling imminent for Nevada lithium

A new drilling contractor brings considerable Clayton Valley experience
and proprietary techniques to Belmont Resources’ Kibby Basin.

The contractor brings extensive Clayton Valley experience in recovering core from unconsolidated lakebed sediments and in testing lithium brine with Harris’ proprietary instrumentation, Belmont stated.

Based on last year’s gravity survey on the 2,760-hectare property, initial holes “are designed to test the eastern basin-bounding fault, where lithium brines are likely to well up in the structural zone, analogous to the concentration of lithium brines along the Paymaster fault in Clayton Valley, and to test the stratigraphy near the central axis of the basin,” the company added. “The holes will test for porous basin sediments, which could serve as aquifers for lithium brines.”

In Saskatchewan’s Uranium City region, Belmont holds a 50/50 JV with International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT in the 12,091-hectare Crackingstone and Orbit claims.

Belmont also has international arbitration proceedings underway regarding the revocation of mining rights at a talc project in Slovakia.

During February and March the company closed private placements totalling $467,500.

More critical than ever

April 13th, 2017

The USGS promotes awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

by Greg Klein

Let’s call it Critical Minerals Awareness Month. The U.S. Geological Survey hasn’t actually labelled April that way, but the agency does have a “big push” underway to inform American decision-makers and the general public about the country’s often tenuous hold on commodities vital to the economy and security of that country. Of course those concerns apply to its allies as well.

The USGS promotes public awareness about essential resources and their supply chains

“We decided to do a big push on critical minerals in April largely because we’ve got several big publications coming out on the subject,” USGS public affairs specialist Alex Demas tells ResourceClips.com.

“One of the things we’ve been focusing on is supply chain security, so with the sheer number of mineral commodities that are used in the United States, and the number of them deemed critical, we felt it was important to emphasize where a lot of those mineral resources are coming from and if there are any potential issues in the supply chain, getting them from the source to the United States.”

Computers provide an obvious example, increasing their use from “just 12 elements in the 1980s to as many as 60 by 2006,” points out one recent USGS news release. Smartphones offer another example. Looking back 30 years ago, “‘portable’ phones were the size of a shoebox and consisted of 25 to 30 elements,” states another USGS release. “Today they fit in your pocket or on your wrist and are made from about 75 different elements, almost three-quarters of the periodic table.”

Larry Meinert, USGS deputy associate director for energy and minerals, pointed out some of the sources. “For instance, the industrial sand used to make the quartz in smartphone screens may come from the United States or China, but the potassium added to enhance screen strength could come from Canada, Russia or Belarus. Australia, Chile and Argentina often produce the lithium used in battery cathodes, while the hard-to-come-by tantalum—used in smartphone circuitry—mostly comes from Congo, Rwanda and Brazil.”

That brings an ominous warning. “With minerals being sourced from all over the world, the possibility of supply disruption is more critical than ever.”

The campaign also reveals the agency’s methods for tracking this essential stuff. A USGS-designed early warning system described as “mathematically rigorous and elegant” helps the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency monitor a watch list of about 160 minerals. Not all have been labelled critical, but those so defined can change due to technological development and geopolitical conflict.

The USGS itself tracks something like 90 minerals important to the American economy or security but sourced from about 180 countries. For last year the agency identified 20 minerals on which the U.S. relied entirely on imports and 47 on which the country imported more than half its supply.

Not all the source countries are always best buddies with the West. China supplies most of America’s mined commodities, including 24 of the 47 minerals supplied 51% or more by imports. Among the critical items are rare earth elements, 100% imported, over 90% directly from China and much of the rest through supply chains originating there.

As a supplier, Canada came a distant second, the chief provider of 16 minerals, not all of them critical. Runners-up Mexico, Russia and South Africa were each chief suppliers for eight American mineral imports.

Among the research reports coming soon will be “a compendium of everything the USGS knows about 23 minerals critical to the United States,” Demas says. “It’s going to cover the industry side of things, the reserves, production, shipment, etc. It’s going to cover geology and sustainability. Each chapter on each mineral will have a section on how this can be mined sustainably so we can meet our needs not only today, but also in the future.”

In part the publications target “decision-makers in Congress, as well as the Defense Department and others who use mineral resources,” Demas adds. But he emphasizes the campaign wasn’t motivated by the proposed METALS Act (Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security). Currently before U.S. Congress, the bill calls on government to support domestic resources and supply chains of critical and strategic minerals. On introducing the bill, Rep. Duncan Hunter argued the risk of foreign dependence to national security “is too great and it urgently demands that we re-establish our depleted domestic industrial base.”

As Demas notes, “Since we are a non-regulatory, non-policy agency, we don’t directly influence policy. But we do want policy-makers to have our tools available so they can make the best science-informed decisions.”

And while this month will see special attention to critical minerals, Demas says the subject’s an ongoing concern for the USGS. Some of the reports coming out now will be updates of annual publications.

“We’re really trying to promote the idea that USGS has a lot of really useful information that we put out all the time,” he adds. “This information will hopefully be useful to people when they’re considering where their resources are coming from.”

Follow USGS news here.

Read about the West’s dependence on non-allied countries for critical minerals here and here.