Securing America's Future: New Investments Aim to Reduce Dependency on Imported Critical Minerals




USA News Group – In an effort to bolster the domestic supply chain for critical minerals and materials, the Biden Administration recently announced a $17.5-million investment to develop more affordable, sustainable production processes throughout the USA. The announcement came just days after the Center for Strategic & International Studies’s (CSIS) Project on Critical Minerals Security launch, meant to build the resilient supply chains needed for national, economic, and energy security. These initiatives are meant to build out a more robust supply of the 50 mineral commodities within the current United States Critical Materials List, each representing materials essential to economic and national security, however, for 43 of these critical minerals, the USA imports more than half of its supply. The mining industry is pushing forward to develop these types of commodities with miners making progress, including Ares Strategic Mining Inc. (CSE: ARS) (OTCQX: ARSMF), MP Materials Corp. (NYSE:MP), Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE-A: UUUU) (TSX: EFR), Arcadium Lithium plc (NYSE: ALTM), and Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE: FCX).

Among the more overlooked commodities on the critical minerals list is fluorspar, the only non-metallic commodity on the list that’s 100% imported into the USA—according to the USGS. This lesser-known miner plays an important role in the green energy solution, given its wide use within the lithium-ion battery supply chain, as it’s important in the manufacturing of lithium-ion battery electrolytes, cathode, anode and separator bindings, as well in the processing of natural graphite.

However, there is a new domestic fluorspar supply in the horizon in the form of Ares Strategic Mining Inc.’s (CSE:ARS) (OTC:ARSMF) Lost Sheep Fluorspar Project, located in Utah. Consisting of 353 claims spanning a 5,982-acre area, the Lost Sheep Mine is in the process of construction towards commercial production. Back in March, Ares announced the completion of its mine planning, and the commencement of its mine’s installation construction.

“Seeing the project get closer to production is extremely encouraging and motivating,” said James Walker, President and CEO of Ares. “The visually confirmed fluorspar mineralization from the current drill program was an unexpected bonus and provided us with still further confidence in our upcoming operation. The ramp currently under construction is the biggest development towards the largest fluorspar operation ever seen at the Spor Mountain Range, which has almost 100 years of mining history. The Company and its staff are excited at the tangible near-term and long-term prospects and are looking forward to commencing operations and being the only domestic supplier of metspar and acidspar in the United States.”

This progress comes months after Ares closed a $10.5-million financing, using the funds to complete the full payment to the plant manufacturer to begin fabrication. The company’s ongoing diamond drilling program has assisted Ares’ technical staff to define the extents of fluorspar mineralization and has aided in delineating the placement and design of ramps to facilitate mining operations scheduled for later in 2024.

Another critical required for the ongoing energy transition are rare earth magnets, which are expected to see global demand grow five-fold by 2040. Currently the most promising domestic project is being developed by MP Materials Corp. (NYSE:MP), which is already producing magnet precursor materials in a North American pilot facility. Recently, MP received a $58.5 million award to advance its construction of the USA’s first fully-integrated rare earth magnet manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, Texas. As part of a Section 48C Advanced Energy Project tax credit allocation administered by the Department of Energy, MP Materials is set to apply the funds to the manufacturing facility which began construction in April 2022, and expects to commence commercial production of precursor materials this summer, and finished magnets by late 2025.

MP has already secured a buyer, as it sets off to supply these products to General Motors, to support its North American EV production. MP will obtain the raw materials for the factory from its rare earth mine and separation facility in Mountain Pass, California—the only large-scale and operational site of its kind in the U.S.

“[In 2023] we exceeded 40,000 tons of REO production for the third consecutive year, achieved first production and sales of NdPr, and added substantial depth to our team and capability set,” said James Litinsky, Chairman and CEO of MP Materials. “Our magnetics division completed construction in Fort Worth and began trial production of rare earth metal.”

Wanting to make its mark as a global leader in critical mineral production with a focus on uranium, rare earth elements and heavy mineral sands, Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE-A: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) recently announced the acquisition of Base Resources Limited for $240 million to create an enhanced critical minerals company. Key to the deal is Base Resources’ world-class, advanced-stage, low-cost and large-scale Toliara heavy mineral sands project.

“The acquisition of Base Resources and the Toliara project represents a monumental leap forward for the Company, as we continue to execute on a truly revolutionary REE, uranium and critical mineral combined strategy,” said Mark S. Chalmers, President and CEO of Energy Fuels. “For the past four-plus years, Energy Fuels has innovated a new way to produce critical minerals, that we believe is more cost competitive than traditional approaches, by leveraging our uranium processing expertise and infrastructure to develop a secure, U.S.-centric REE oxide supply chain.”

Once in production, the Monazite from Toliara will provide a large portion of the raw materials needed for Energy Fuels’ rapidly expanding and world-competitive REE oxide production facility at its Mill in Utah. The acquisition bolsters Energy Fuels’ core US-based uranium business, while also providing an additional steady, low-cost source of uranium from Toliara itself over the life of the project.

While not a solely-domestic source, Arcadium Lithium plc (NYSE: ALTM) continues to aim for dominance as a provider of lithium, after its historic merger between Allkem and Livent earlier this year. Through its full calendar year of 2023, Arcadium’s combined company revenues were $2.0 billion on a pro forma basis. Among the combined company’s projects include the potential James Bay project in Quebec, Canada, which is touted as a sustainable, hard-rock operation, that will maximize the usage of renewable energy.

“We are excited to officially begin operating as Arcadium Lithium, leveraging the strengths of two highly complementary organizations and continuing to grow as one of the leading producers of lithium chemicals globally,” said Paul Graves, President and CEO of Arcadium Lithium. “As a larger, more diversified and vertically integrated company, we are better positioned to meet the needs of our customers and have even greater flexibility to take advantage of opportunities available throughout market cycles.”

Perhaps one of the most well-recognized of the critical minerals list is copper, which is the specialty of mining giant Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE: FCX) that boasts several large mining projects including one of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits in Indonesia, but also significant operations in North America and South America, including the large-scale Morenci minerals district in Arizona.

“Market fundamentals for copper are positive, supported by copper’s increasingly important role in the global economy and limited available supplies to meet growing demand,” said Kathleen L. Quirk, President of Freeport in the company’s latest financial report. “Freeport is strongly positioned for the future as a leading producer of copper with multiple options for future growth and an experienced team with a track record of accomplishment.”

Quirk is set to succeed current Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson, who is stepping down after a 20-year tenure. But before his departure, Adkerson is strongly encouraging the US government to improve its mine permitting process if it hopes to boost domestic supplies of critical minerals.

“The U.S. government needs to stop giving lip service to permitting,” said Richard Adkerson at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, as reported by Reuters. “The question is, given our political system that we have today and the dysfunctionality of it, how do you go from getting a project verbally accepted to getting actions done?”

Earlier in the conference, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stated to the audience that she supported efforts in the U.S. Congress to reform the country’s mining laws, some of which were first approved in the 19th Century.

Article Source: https://usanewsgroup.com/2024/04/29/this-company-is-bringing-essential-mining-back-to-the-u-s-fueled-by-government-action/

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