PUBLISHED: FRI, 25 AUG 2023 14:40:10 GMT
Lithium is the new oil. Due to its conductive and light characteristics, ‘white gold’ is a prominent material used to create rechargeable batteries in most electronic devices. With a changing world focused on ‘green’ and sustainable practices to remove fossil fuels, lithium is the desire of many major manufacturers. But much like oil and gas, this metal comes with its own set of hold ups.
American Resources Corporation: Innovative technology to keep up with the demand for ‘White Gold’ – CNBC Africa
Refining and mining processes make extraction and reuse of this material tainted with dirty practices. Pollutants and toxic chemicals are required in the mass refinement of critical minerals. The largest producer, China, has commandeered vast amounts of land to keep up with the world’s demand, and dispose of the waste. They have cornered the market with their natural deposits of rare earth metals, and their threshold to refine these alloys is unmatched. But competition is necessary in an industry needing change.
American Resources Corporation is a solution to create a competitive, American critical mineral refining and recycling industry. The company has a long track record of building up sustainable mining and refining businesses based in the United States. During the financial crisis of 2008, American Resources Corp. turned distressed coal mines into financially successful and environmentally sustainable factories. Since then, the company invested in the industry of rare earth metals. Leveraging technology developed by Purdue University and Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant, American Resources Corporation built its main tool in expanding American critical mineral refining: ReElement Technologies.
ReElement Technologies focuses on ‘clean’ refinement and recycling of rare earth and critical metals in an economical way. The company not only extracts and refines metals from virgin ore, but also batteries, magnets, and ‘black mass’. ‘Black mass’ refers to the waste caused by crushing and shredding end-of-life batteries. ReElement’s technology can extract >99% pure lithium ready for use in batteries from this e-waste. Their novel application to a longstanding and commercial technology uses sophisticated practices to extract the desired metals of lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel. There was never a need for innovation in refinement, but with other countries looking to the future, America is forced to play catch-up in this new industry.
China is the most prominent miner and refiner of lithium, alongside other rare earth and critical metals. Not only do they mine 50% of the world’s deposits, they also refine almost 90% of all metals for use. It’s no secret that the People’s Republic has become dominant with many natural deposits of these metals located in their country. They make phones, batteries, cars, and all other devices that most Americans use daily. The ‘Made in China” etching shines on most electronic devices all over the world. But consumers rely upon one of the worst polluters to support the rollout of green technology.
Waste has poisoned the environment, and many experts believe we are in a race for the survival of our species. The conductive abilities of lithium and other rare earth materials offer many solutions to alternative energy, but current practices for dumping these materials hinder progression.
A multitude of toxins, pollutants, and other suspicious chemicals are used to refine and recycle materials like lithium and cobalt. When used properly, these materials need to be scrapped, but the toxic e-waste pollutes the environment. The debris contaminates all aspects of the Earth from the air to the soil. These methods require stadium-sized factories in vast, open spaces. With the ReElement technology, this past approach of refining is no longer needed with the use of chromatography.
The science is rooted in the ability to extract minerals within a mixture, with its origins beginning in the art world. ReElement is able to pull each metal out at different times without any e-waste. Every outcome of the refinement process can either be sold, recycled, or stored for later use. The technology doesn’t rely on dumping the material into the environment once the metal is extracted. ReElement focuses on circular economic practices to ensure that all materials are used again once the metals are removed. This novel application to this longstanding technology diversifies the supply chain of critical mineral refining and recycling, but more is needed to break away from the East Asian monopoly on material mining.
Numerous reserves of lithium and rare earth metals are being discovered in Africa. Countries such as Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Namibia have become significant exporters of lithium. China developed a multitude of refining plants on the continent to help extract more of the material. However, many of the metals are removed from the country without any local support. Although China has created infrastructure in these nations, the practice has begun to frustrate many of the local governments––instituting laws banning the export of their materials. Africans want their hard work to be compensated, and American Resources Corp wants to help.
Currently, the company plans an expansion into South Africa and western Africa. American Resources Corporation has signed an offtake agreement with partners within the South African nation to purchase 6% of the lithium spodumene ore. Arrangements are set for the delivery of material back to the United States to be refined with ReElement’s technology. However, American Resources Corporation wants to reinvest its tools into these local communities. The technology is incredibly versatile and modular, which can drive growth anywhere it is established. This idea isn’t a new play in the American Resources Corp. handbook.
American Resources Corp. thrives on turning distressed liabilities into profitable, environmentally sustainable assets. From their start in East Kentucky and West Virginia, American Resources Corporation created innovative assets out of different mines and plants. The company thrives off competition, and America needs to be competitive in this race for critical and rare earth metals.
Within the past four years, the American government has incentivized companies to enter into the sustainability sector. The Biden-Harris administration implemented the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, which have pushed for a domestic transition into ‘greener’ energies,but might have been overzealous. It’s difficult for American companies to enter the market. Many firms don’t have the proper capabilities to deal with such high demand, which will force them to rely on Chinese companies. ReElement Technologies offers a panacea to the reliance on China. Americans can move the supply chain back to the country with the use of ReElement’s innovative refining platform.
There was never a need for innovation in critical mineral refinement and recycling. In the past, the world wasn’t oriented toward consumerist habits involving these metals. Technology was limited, but an explosion of innovation led the world away from fossil fuels to mineral dependence. From cars to cellular devices, lithium, and other rare earth metals are in high demand. The Economic World Forum claims the world will need 2 billion tons of lithium by 2050 to get everyone driving electric vehicles. Sadly, by 2025 the International Energy Agency (IEA) claims the supply will be ‘stretched too thin’. Without the ability to more efficiently refine and recycle these critical metals, the world ceases to evolve. With the use of ReElement, America can once again lead the world in innovation and keep up with the demand, while creating a more competitive industry.