The critical mineral boron is used in a variety of applications, from agriculture to nuclear power. It is also one of the few minerals that we don’t have enough of.
NEW YORK, United States, June 3, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — As with other strategic minerals, obtaining a production license is difficult given the environmental impact on the land. Therefore, for a mining company owner in California’s Mojave Desert, raising awareness and the strategic importance of boron is the mission of extractors and the mining community.
Need for critical minerals
The United States relies heavily on imported critical minerals, which are used in a variety of industries, including defense, renewable energy, and high-tech manufacturing. In recent years, the country’s reliance on foreign sources of these critical minerals has caused growing concern.
Boron is an essential mineral for many industries and applications. It is used in the production of fiberglass, ceramics and other products. It is also used in the production of boron alloys and as a dopant in the manufacture of semiconductors. Boron is also essential for human health. Boron is essential for the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth.
5E Advanced Materials Inc. CEO Henri Tausch, owner of the Fort Cady mine, says, “Boron is probably where lithium was ten years ago. No one had heard of lithium, discussed it, and was aware that it could be a major problem.
As the United States government focuses on domestic production of minerals critical to the economy, climate, and national security, funding has become increasingly competitive due to often limited government resources for such projects. .
The United States is the second largest producer of boron (about 20% of world production), behind Turkey, which extracts 60% of boron. However, most of the boron mined in the United States is shipped to China to be processed into boron carbide materials.
The Pentagon has recommended to the defense industrial capacity to develop a second source of boron carbide in the United States, concerning the Rio Tinto group, which also operates in California. China supplies 80% of boron composite materials for military applications.
Boron mining at Fort Cady
Boron is a chemical element that does not exist in the elemental state. It combines with oxygen or other elements to form boric acid or inorganic salts called borates.
Fort Cady has approximately 120.4 million tonnes of reserves of colemanite, one of four types of borates that make up 90% of borate minerals used by industry worldwide. It is the largest known occurrence of conventional contained borate in the world that is not owned by Rio Tinto or Eti Maden, a company owned by the Turkish government.
Tausch states, “Boron deposits are usually found in a volcano, an evaporated body of water, or a fault line.” Fort Cady also contains 0.17% lithium carbonate, a highly desirable element for batteries and electric vehicles.
The mine is not yet in working order. Still, according to Chance Pipitone, 5E’s senior vice president of corporate development and investor relations, FEAM is set to launch a small-scale boron facility that is expected to start with a year-end product. ready for sale. He added that full-scale production will begin in 2025.
But even so, mining and processing deposits is time-consuming and expensive. According to Ben Steinberg, executive vice president and co-president of Venn Strategies’ critical infrastructure group, developing a mine after exploration can take up to ten years.
Boron in defense applications
Boron is a strategic material, according to the United States Defense Logistics Agency, because it is used in a variety of critical ways for the military.
For example, boron fibers are used in advanced aerospace structures like missiles and airplanes. Additionally, boron is used as an industrial catalyst to make polymers. It also has essential uses in the electroplating of metals and the interior plates of ballistic vests. Finally, boron is an essential mineral in tank armor and neodymium permanent magnets. Strategic certification allows the Department of Defense to stockpile boron that will be available for use in wartime or other emergency situations. However, strategic materials and critical minerals are not always the same thing. It is determined by the agency that reviews the materials and creates the designation.
Under the Energy Act of 2020, the U.S. Geological Survey states that a critical mineral is a noncombustible mineral or mineral material that is essential to the economic or national security of the United States and whose chain of supply is vulnerable to disruption. Critical minerals are essential for the manufacture of any product.
Boron was not included in the list of critical minerals released by the USGS in February 2022, despite being essential to national security and the economy. Indeed, given current domestic production levels, the United States is not heavily dependent on imports for this mineral.
Generally, there are sufficient national reserves and reliable foreign sources to meet foreseeable consumption needs. However, this could change in the future if consumption increases or production levels decline. In such a case, boron would become a critical mineral.
Since boron is already considered a strategic material, 5E could be eligible for a portion of the more than $330 million available under Title III of the Defense Production Act, earmarked for US industry to increase the production efficiency and supply required for national defense purposes.
List of critical minerals
The designation of critical minerals would give the mine a significant boost, making it eligible for loans and other financial assistance from the US government. It could prove to be a vital lifeline for the mine, which has struggled to stay afloat in recent years.
With the Biden administration’s focus on clean energy, the mine is useful because it also contains lithium, which is essential for advanced batteries. This already provides access to some DOE loans, such as the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, at US Treasury rates.
According to Pipitone, a critical mineral determination could result in an additional $2 billion in Department of Energy funding.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has designated Fort Cady as critical infrastructure, the same designation as nuclear power plants.
Raising awareness at the Pentagon and then on Capitol Hill as lawmakers begin drafting the Financial Security Authorization Bill 2023 and other key legislation is the company’s strategy to highlight the importance of boron and its derivatives for the national security, economy and energy of the United States.
“The 5E project is an incredible opportunity to advance the pace of large-scale global boron capacity available to industry and the federal government. The scope of boron’s application to the national defense and manufacturing base even requires strengthening the project, just as the continued interest of China and others in the boron value chain highlights the need for the project. said Joe Kasper, CEO of Ervin Graves and veteran of Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.