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Rush to Provide Domestic Critical Minerals as Alternative to Chinese Supply

FN Media Group Presents USA News Group News Commentary


Vancouver, BC – January 12, 2022 – USA News Group  –  Several governments around the globe are jockeying for position to secure critical minerals ahead of the energy transition. Much of this concern has to do with needing an alternative supply source based on the very real threat of disruptions out of the world’s largest supplier, China. Several supply chain issues are coming to the fore, causing more urgency in new developments. In North America, both Canada and the United States are making pushes to improve their own situations as providers for the world. This has moved several critical minerals explorers, developers, and producers into action, including Ares Strategic Mining Inc. (TSXV:ARS) (OTCQX:ARSMF), MP Materials Corp. (NYSE:MP), Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE:UUUU), Glencore plc (OTC:GLNCY), and Century Aluminum Company (NASDAQ:CENX).


During the fall of 2021, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put out an updated 2021 Draft List of Critical Minerals, which explicitly listed 54 items ranking from highest to lowest supply chain risk based on quantitative evaluation.


Within the Top 10 on the list was an often overlooked critical mineral, known as fluorspar. For over a decade, concern over fluorspar supplies has been on the rise, as China has historically placed export restrictions on the mineral which is essential in the production of a wide variety of fluorine-containing products including refrigerants, coatings, foam-blowing agents, and pharmaceutical intermediates.


In response to this growing need, Ares Strategic Mining Inc. (TSXV:ARS) (OTC:ARSMF) has been diligently working towards developing a North American supply of fluorspar on its Lost Sheep Fluorspar Project, located in Delta, Utah—the only permitted fluorspar mine in the USA.


Ares is in the process of ramping up production at the site, by implementing new equipment and designing a new plant tailored to the site’s ore, while also assembling a team of experienced personnel and strategic partners in Asia with several fluorspar mining operations in places like Thailand and Laos.


Recently, Ares shipped its large 3-story facility, called the lumps plant, ahead of schedule. It will be the only one of its kind in North America. Their partners, the Mujim Group have committed to provide labor and expertise for the installation and optimization of the plant, and to assist Ares to commence operations as efficiently as possible.


“All the components of our operation, construction, and production are lining up,” said
James Walker, President and CEO of Ares Strategic Mining. “We have long-term plans for project and Company expansion over the coming years and anticipate becoming an important part of the US industrial landscape.”


Ares successfully ran metallurgical tests using its ore through a test plant earlier this year, producing high-grade product along the way that met the specifications required by industry, all while demonstrating high recovery values.


Both international and domestic industrial manufacturers have expressed considerable interest in Ares’ product and are currently in negotiations to develop contracts for future purchases of the metallurgical fluorspar lumps. These lumps are expected to principally supply the steel industries but will also feed into the ceramics and glass industries.


Other critical minerals being talked about and that are exhibited high up on the USGS list are known as Rare Earth minerals. Currently, MP Materials Corp. (NYSE:MP) owns and operates Mountain Pass, the only Rare Earth mining and processing site in North America.


MP’s latest contribution to the energy transition, comes with the announcement it is set to build a US Magnet Factory in Fort Worth, Texas, and that it has entered a long-term agreement with General Motors to supply US-sourced and manufactured rare earth alloy and magnets to power more than a dozen models using GM’s Ultium Platform.


The facility is set to produce NdFeB alloy and magnets with the potential to power ~500,000 EV motors per year, while a gradual production ramp is expected to begin in 2023.


MP Materials has built an exceptional magnetics team and important commercial relationships that will accelerate our mission to restore the full rare earth supply chain to the United States,” said MP Materials Chairman & CEO, James Litinsky. “This is a momentous occasion for the reshoring of the American supply chain, and we are grateful for GM’s confidence, commitment and leadership.”


Another company working to develop rare earths is Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE:UUUU), which recently announced a strategic venture with Nanoscale Powders to develop innovative rare earth metal-making technology.


Energy Fuels believes the novel technology has the potential to revolutionize the rare earth metal making industry by reducing costs of production, reducing energy consumption, and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


“Metal-making is a critical step in the rare earth supply chain,” said President and CEO of Energy Fuels, Mark S. Chalmers. “Energy Fuels has already restored monazite ‘crack-and-leach’ capabilities to the U.S. at our White Mesa Mill in Utah, where today we are producing a high-purity mixed rare earth carbonate, which is ready for separation. No other company in the U.S. is currently producing a high-purity REE product ready for separation at commercial levels.”


One of the more commonly known metals that made the list, but is in the top 10 of supply chains most at risk is aluminum.


Century Aluminum Company (NASDAQ:CENX) owns primary aluminum capacity in both the USA and in Iceland, and annual production of 320,000 tonnes of aluminum.


As part of its commitment to ESG goals, Century Aluminum recently signed a letter of intent for the supply to the Grundartangi smelter of green electricity originating from two of Qair’s windfarms with a total installed capacity of 200 MW under development in Iceland.


Grundartangi uses Iceland’s 100% renewable energy resources to create Natur-Al™ aluminum, which has one of the lowest CO₂ footprints in the world. Natur-Al™ has less than a quarter of the CO₂ content than the industry average, fulfilling the growing demand from Europe’s most environmentally conscious consumers.


Another aluminum producer, Arconic Corporation (NYSE:ARNC) saw its sales go up 34% year over year in Q3 2021, to $1.9 billion.


“Demand for our products remains very strong across all end markets even as the pandemic continues to affect our operations,” said Tim Myers, CEO of Arconic. The company’s revenue expectations are now in the range of $7.5 billion to $7.7 billion for full-year 2021 compared with the prior expected range of $7.3 billion to $7.6 billion.


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USA News Group




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