Experts Say Inadequate Mineral Refining Capacity Could Jeopardize Renewable Energy Agenda

Earlier in April, the Biden Administration revealed its plans for renewable energy, which require mining projects that increase the country’s access to the minerals needed to build solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars. However, its decision to postpone orders that allow for mineral development on Alaskan land and another to halt a land swap that would allow for copper to be mined on sacred Apache land has been heavily criticized by Republicans in the country.

While many believe that not expanding the country’s mining during the energy transition in order to increase competition with China on the critical mineral front is an issue that needs to be addressed, experts argue that the lack of mineral refineries and processing plants is a bigger issue that requires immediate attention. Center for Critical Minerals Strategy director Abigal Wulf states that the majority of the minerals mined in the country have to be shipped abroad for processing, adding that this wouldn’t change even if more minerals were dug up, unless the issue was addressed.

This weakness in the supply chain has caught the administration’s attention, with officials revealing that among the president’s priorities is securing domestic access to the minerals required to make the country a major player in the manufacture of technologies that help combat global warming. The White House asserts that this will encourage both processing and mining.

However, experts are of the opinion that instead of opening mines, expanding the country’s mineral refining capacity for minerals such as lithium and nickel could be more attainable in the short term. At the moment, China controls about 85% and 55% of rare earth mineral refining and rare earth mining capacity respectively. Many countries that produce critical minerals export their minerals to China for refining.

For instance, Congo mines nearly 70% of cobalt globally. Of this amount, about 85% of cobalt ore is shipped to China for refining. Australia, which is a major producer of lithium globally, also exports its lithium to China for refining. With regard to lithium, China controls more than  60% of its refining capacity globally.

Missouri University of Science and Technology professor of metallurgical engineering Michael Moats states that the extensive refining and smelting capacity of China enables it to recover secondary critical minerals found in the ore concentrates that are extracted at mines in other countries. These mineral concentrates, he continues, are usually exported for processing in other countries. Inadequate refining capacity coupled with the economic and environmental risks associated with developing mineral processing plants put the United States at a disadvantage in the energy transition.

It would be interesting to see how the mineral value chains of entities such as Asia Broadband Inc. (OTC: AABB) would change once the U.S. becomes a mineral refining hub to the same magnitude that China is.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Asia Broadband Inc. (OTC: AABB) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/AABB

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