Doe Run Vice President calls for US investment in critical minerals
The United States should reduce its reliance on imported raw materials and support stronger domestic supply of critical minerals and metals, according to leading mining company and ILA member The Doe Run Company, based in Missouri.
At a Resilient Supply of Critical Minerals workshop held by Missouri University of Science & Technology, Dr John Uhrie, Vice President of Exploration, Research and Technical Development at The Doe Run Company (Doe Run) addressed this issue.
He stated that the mineral requirements necessary to reach net-zero carbon goals by 2050 – to produce electric cars, and the transition to more wind and solar energy generation – could reach up to six-times today’s requirement.
“If the US is to regain its position as a leader in mineral extraction, processing and manufacturing, we need a shift in how regulators approach permitting, research and development,” said Uhrie. “The current regulatory approach is stymieing domestic growth and promoting the export of raw materials only to have them processed under less stringent environmental standards elsewhere.
“The US has the natural resources, technological wherewithal and human capital necessary to reduce the nation’s dependence of imported metals required for our electrification needs. But inconsistent energy policies and a lack of information sharing across regulatory agencies results in a regulatory landscape that hinders the development and advancement of cutting edge, leapfrog technologies. We see this first-hand.”
Uhrie gave the example of lead concentrates. Produced in Missouri, lead concentrates are exported because the US no longer has domestic access to primary lead processing. The US imports about one-third of domestic demand for lead in order to produce lead batteries and other products, losing the economic value of producing the metal domestically. Lead is not alone in this scenario. There are also no domestic primary smelters for zinc or nickel.
“Doe Run has novel lead metal processing technologies in development for both primary and secondary metal production that could be commercialised under the right conditions,” said Uhrie. “Our hydromet technologies are not only capable of lead metal production with significant elimination of air emissions, but also can produce antimony and tin from recycled batteries and recover cobalt and nickel from complex concentrates. But we need better cooperation among the industry and regulators to reduce the unpredictability and uncertainty that hinders investment in these innovations.”
To help the US reclaim its position as a global leader in mineral extraction and processing, Uhrie calls for increased attention in four key areas:
- People: Investment in collegiate mining and metallurgy programs to train the next generation of the mining workforce.
- Permitting: Establish a clear, consistent and transparent path to the permitting of new mines and processing facilities, which currently takes up to 10 years, compared to just two years in Australia and Canada.
- Processing: Revitalise US mineral processing and recycling.
- Permission: Redefine the industry’s relationship with regulators to work in greater collaboration toward sustainable mineral and metal production.
Doe Run’s six mines in the Viburnum Trend produce 5 million tonnes of ore a year, producing lead, copper and zinc concentrates. The company’s Resource Recycling facility, recycles approximately 8.5 million lead batteries each year, returning the metal to use in new batteries. Lead batteries are the most recycled consumer product in the world. They represent the standard for a circular economy product, with each lead battery produced containing more than 80% recycled materials.