FN Media Group Presents USA News Group News Commentary
Vancouver, BC – May 7, 2021 – – USA News Group – Drastic times call for desperate measures, and that is why the recent Executive Order signed by the sitting US President is addressing a national emergency in the mining industry. A critical mineral gap is causing an alarming reliance on foreign adversaries—in most cases China.
The production of a whopping 18 of the 35 minerals officially listed are dominated by China, and two more (cesium and rubidium) have their largest production from a Chinese-owned mine in Canada. Several mining companies are stepping up to aid in the domestic development of critical minerals supply chains in the US, including Ares Strategic Mining Inc. (TSXV:ARS) (OTC:ARSMF), Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE:FCX), Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB), Chart Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:GTLS), and Materion Corporation (NYSE:MTRN).
Originally compiled in 2018, the US Government’s final list of critical minerals includes: aluminum (bauxite), antimony, arsenic, barite, beryllium, bismuth, cesium, chromium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite (natural), hafnium, helium, indium, lithium, magnesium, manganese, niobium, platinum group metals, potash, the rare earth elements group, rhenium, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, and zirconium.
It didn’t take long for the industry to respond. Only five days after the Executive Order was issued, critical mineral producer Ares Strategic Mining Inc. (TSXV:ARS) (OTC:ARSMF) announced a new discovery of fluorspar on its Lost Sheep Mine property in Utah.
Despite being lesser known, fluorspar is incredibly important to multiple industries, including the production of hydrofluoric acid, steel, and aluminum. Earlier this year, fluorspar price increases suggested that the coronavirus epidemic had caused a supply disruption.
However, for domestic buyers, Ares Strategic Mining is offering what could be one of the lowest cost (and cleanest) fluorspar supplies compared to foreign producers.
“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 to the U.S.,” said Ares President and CEO, James Walker after announcing his company’s latest new discovery.
To become the only domestic metspar and acidspar producer in the US, Ares’s Lost Sheep mine expansion plans involve the US$3 million purchase of the necessary equipment for the upgrades—a reasonable cost, given that the company has already successfully established a customer base that exceeds US$10 million. Ares is also in discussions with four new major offtake partners.
Outside of the USA, the top producing nation of fluorspar is China, which recently shifted from net fluorspar exporter to net importer.
In a recently released NI 43-101 report on the property, the Lost Sheep project showed confirmed grades averaging 87%—most typical fluorspar mines have grades of 5-30% purity. So far no other fluorspar deposits of comparable size and grade have been identified in North America.
TIGHTENING UP OTHER CRITICAL MINERALS
Among the concerns brought up from the Executive Order, was that of the supply gap in rare earth minerals. China currently controls 80% of the USA’s rare earth mineral supply.
China is also the top producer in the rare metal, molybdenum, which is used to make steel alloys, that increase the end product’s strength, hardness, electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion and wear.
But at least some major miners are still producing it within the USA, such as Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE:FCX).
In North America, FCX operates seven open-pit copper mines, and two molybdenum mines. However, back in May, the company had to announce it was cutting production at a key Colorado molybdenum mine by half as it assessed operations to take COVID-19 precautions.
Overall, production from their two Colorado molybdenum mines totaled 13 million pounds in the first 6 months of 2020, compared to 17 million pounds during the same period in 2019. The halts definitely took an effect.
Another critical mineral listed is beryllium, another alloy-making material, used often to make high strength and high thermal conductivity copper and nickel. But unlike most of the others on the list, beryllium is a mineral that the USA dominates production in, partially thanks to the efforts of groups like Materion Corporation (NYSE:MTRN).
It’s been known for a while that Materion’s efforts have strengthened national security, with even the president of the company testifying before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in the lead up to the finalization of the list of critical minerals.
Materion’s President Greg Gregory told the committee that beryllium is a super metal that’s lighter than aluminum but with a stiffness six times that of steel and is invisible to x-ray technologies.
Beryllium isn’t the only item on the critical list that the USA is dominant in, as it also is a world leader in producing helium.
Chart Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:GTLS) is one of the country’s largest helium producers, increasing revenue opportunities from the recovery of natural gas liquids (NGL) and helium from low btu gas reserves. Chart has deisnged and built products and engineered systems that are fundamental for the separation, delivery, storage and end-use of liquid gases that include nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, argon, hydrogen, and helium.
Helium is used not only for inflation of blimps and balloons. It’s used for medical treatments of asthma, bronchitis and other lung deficiencies, MRI magnets, and microscopes, as well as an inert shield for arc welding, and to pressurize the fuel tanks of liquid fueled rockets and to detect leaks in ships.
But of the list, one of the most useful items is lithium. However, despite its usefulness in battery technology and other electronics, there’s very little production in North America. While there are other hard rock lithium projects still in development, the only current production in the USA is operated by Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB).
Albemarle’s Silver Peak Mine is still currently the only US producer. But for how long?
Earlier this year in the summer, the company said it would temporarily shut two operations in the US due to weaker demand for the commodity used in the manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs).
The company has stated it has plans to restart the idled output in early 2021. There’s some potential that the Executive Order could spark a renewed focus on Albemarle’s US lithium operations, but only time will tell.
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