Critical Minerals June ‘23 Megatrend: Japan’s Deal And India’s Induction In Critical Minerals Alliance

June 26, 2023

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In June 2023, the landscape of critical minerals, essential for modern technologies and green transitions, witnessed notable developments. Japan signed an innovative deal with the U.S., aimed at strengthening the critical minerals supply chain between the two nations. The agreement, a part of the critical minerals megatrend, facilitates access for Japanese automakers to U.S. tax incentives for electric vehicles made with critical minerals sourced in Japan. This not only secures Japan's mineral supply but also supports its auto industry.

MarketsandMarkets welcomes this development and our editors share their views.

Meanwhile, India's concerns over its exclusion from the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) have raised alarms. India's ambitious transition towards electric mobility and enhanced electronics manufacturing necessitates secure access to critical minerals. Recognizing this, global powers may need to reassess the MSP's composition, potentially leading to India's induction. Such an inclusion would strengthen India's mineral security, supporting its technological and economic aspirations. These developments underline the increasing global focus on critical minerals as a new geopolitical tool.

What is the U.S.-Japan Critical Minerals Agreement?

The U.S.-Japan Critical Minerals Agreement, signed on March 28, 2023, is a groundbreaking pact that aims to strengthen the critical minerals supply chain between the two nations. Critical minerals, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese, are essential for manufacturing batteries, including those used in electric vehicles (EVs).

The agreement is seen as a key tool to ensure both countries have reliable access to these critical resources amid the rapid global transition to clean energy technologies, where these minerals play a pivotal role. It also aims to reduce the dependence on other countries, most notably China, for these resources.

Under the agreement, it is anticipated that Japanese automakers will gain access to U.S. tax incentives for their electric vehicles sold in the United States and made with critical minerals sourced in Japan. This is achieved under the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act ("IRA") which provides tax credits for electric vehicles. The U.S. Treasury Department is expected to introduce new requirements to make sure that battery components and critical minerals are sourced from free-trade agreement nations to qualify for the full $7,500 per vehicle consumer tax credit.

Although Japan does not have a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, this new agreement is expected to allow Japanese automakers to benefit from these tax incentives, subject to compliance with certain conditions relating to component material requirements and assembly location requirements.

The agreement also prohibits the enactment of bilateral export restrictions on the critical minerals used for electric vehicle batteries, agreeing to not impose export duties, and promoting transparency in supply chains and responsible sourcing.

The two countries further agreed to share information and cooperate on "domestic measures to address non-market policies and practices of non-Parties affecting trade in critical minerals," as well as investments in the critical minerals sector, and potential supply chain disruptions.

Lastly, the agreement contemplates continued collaboration between the United States and Japan on international standards, environmental laws, traceability, and labor laws. This falls in line with the priority of the current U.S. Administration on adherence to international standards. The agreement is unique in its nature and reflects an expansive approach to what a free trade agreement traditionally constitutes.

Is India a member of the Critical Minerals Alliance?

A recent joint statement between India and the United States has confirmed India's inclusion in the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), a group working to secure global critical mineral supply chains. India's entry is significant as the country is focusing on transitioning to electric vehicles and bolstering electronics manufacturing, both requiring a secure supply of critical minerals.

The inclusion came after diplomatic efforts by New Delhi, due to concerns about India's initial absence from this alliance aimed at reducing dependency on China for critical minerals.

The MSP, which now includes India alongside countries like the US, Australia, Canada, and European nations, will focus on developing secure supply chains for critical minerals like cobalt, nickel, lithium, and the 17 "rare earth" minerals, crucial for manufacturing batteries, semiconductors, and high-end electronics.

Who are the members of Critical Minerals Alliance?

June 2023, the members of the Critical Minerals Alliance, also known as the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), are:

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Canada
  4. Finland
  5. France
  6. Germany
  7. Japan
  8. Republic of Korea (South Korea)
  9. Sweden
  10. United Kingdom
  11. European Commission (representing the EU as a whole)
  12. Italy
  13. India
 

These members are collaborating to secure supply chains for critical minerals, to support their technological and industrial sectors while reducing their dependence on other countries, notably China, for these vital resources.

What is the Critical Minerals Alliance?

The Critical Minerals Alliance, also known as the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), is a multilateral initiative led by the United States aiming to secure the supply chains of critical minerals. The MSP focuses on the supply chains of minerals such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, and the 17 "rare earth" minerals, which are crucial for the manufacture of various modern technologies including batteries for electric vehicles, semiconductors, and high-end electronics.

These critical minerals have high economic importance and face potential supply risks, hence the need for secure and stable supply chains. This alliance aims to reduce the dependency of member countries on external sources, notably China, which currently dominates the global supply of these minerals.

 

Members of the MSP work collaboratively on several projects, sharing expertise, fostering cooperation in battery materials development, and exploring joint development of mineral processing facilities. They have also agreed on principles that include the highest environmental, social, and governance standards.

As of June 2023, the members of the MSP include the United States, Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Sweden, the United Kingdom, the European Commission, Italy, and India.

Critical vs strategic minerals

 

Critical minerals and strategic minerals are terms used to describe minerals that hold significant importance due to their essential role in various industries and technologies. These minerals are crucial for economic growth, technological advancement, and national security.

For example, rare earth elements are critical minerals as they are vital for manufacturing electronic devices, renewable energy systems, and defense equipment. They are considered strategically important due to their scarcity, potential supply chain vulnerabilities, and high demand. Critical minerals, such as rare earth elements, are a subset of strategic minerals that have essential applications and are of significant importance to countries and industries.

When and why was Critical Minerals Alliance setup?

The Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance was set up on December 12, according to the information provided. It was announced during the COP15 talks on biodiversity in Montreal. The participating countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom, came together on that date to form the alliance.

The Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance was set up in December. It was announced during the COP15 talks on biodiversity in Montreal. The alliance aims to produce and buy critical minerals from countries with stronger environmental and labor standards. The participating countries include the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Objectives of the alliance:

Promote sustainability standards for critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel.

Reduce dependence on countries like China, which currently dominates the market for these minerals used in EV batteries.

Support sourcing from countries with higher environmental and labor standards.

Strengthen supply chains and mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities.

Key points:

The alliance does not immediately exclude China but seeks to gradually shift towards alternatives over time.

Western countries aim to reduce reliance on authoritarian regimes for strategically important materials.

Environmental sustainability, indigenous rights, and labor standards are emphasized in the mining sector.

China has the opportunity to improve its environmental and labor standards and potentially join the alliance in the future.

Concerns:

The enforcement of sustainability standards within the alliance is questioned.

 

It remains to be seen how effectively the alliance can ensure compliance with higher standards.

Overall, the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance was established to promote responsible sourcing, sustainable practices, and higher standards in the critical minerals industry, while reducing dependence on countries with weaker environmental and labor standards.

What are the goals of Critical Minerals Alliance?

The Critical Minerals Alliance, also known as the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP), has several key objectives:

  1. Dependency Reduction: The MSP aims to decrease global dependency on single or limited sources of critical minerals, particularly China. This is done by diversifying and strengthening supply chains to prevent any monopolistic influence and to avoid potential geopolitical and economic vulnerabilities.
  2. Supply Chain Security: This objective involves ensuring a secure and resilient supply of critical minerals, reducing the risk of disruptions that could impact various sectors of the economy. By stabilizing the supply chains, the MSP contributes to both economic stability and growth.
  3. Collaboration Enhancement: The MSP works to enhance collaboration among member countries. This involves sharing expertise and resources, fostering investment, and undertaking joint projects. Collaborative work can lead to faster technological advancements, more efficient use of resources, and reduced environmental impact.
  4. Promotion of High Standards: The MSP is committed to upholding high environmental, social, and governance standards. This involves ensuring that mining and production processes are environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and governed by fair and transparent rules.
  5. Economic Benefit: The MSP aims to help member countries make the most of their geological resources. By ensuring a steady and secure supply of critical minerals, countries can support various sectors of their economies, including clean energy, digital technologies, and defense industries. This can lead to job creation, increased investment, and economic growth.
 

Which are the top companies that mine critical minerals?

Here are some leading companies involved in the mining of critical minerals:

  1. Albemarle Corporation (USA): Albemarle is a major global producer of lithium, used in the manufacture of batteries. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company operates in multiple countries and has a significant presence in South America's lithium-rich region.
  2. China Molybdenum Co., Ltd. (China): This Chinese company is a major global producer of molybdenum and tungsten, both of which are considered critical minerals. It's also a significant player in the cobalt industry, largely due to its operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  3. Glencore (Switzerland): Glencore is one of the world's largest diversified mining companies. It's a major player in the production of cobalt, copper, zinc, nickel, and ferroalloys. The company has operations in over 35 countries.
  4. Ganfeng Lithium (China): Ganfeng is one of the largest lithium producers worldwide. The company has mining operations in several countries, including China, Australia, and Argentina.
  5. Lynas Corporation (Australia): Lynas is the largest producer of rare earth elements outside of China. The company mines rare earths at its Mount Weld mine in Western Australia and processes them at a facility in Malaysia.
  6. MP Materials Corp. (USA): MP Materials operates the Mountain Pass mine in California, one of the most significant rare earth mining sites outside China.
 

Major critical minerals investment partnerships

Here some examples of countries that have engaged in critical minerals partnerships or initiatives.

  1. United States and Canada: The United States and Canada have collaborated on critical minerals through initiatives like the Canada-U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration, aiming to promote responsible mining, secure supply chains, and reduce reliance on foreign sources.
  2. European Union and Africa: The European Union has been engaging with African countries to develop critical mineral partnerships. For instance, the EU has initiatives like the Raw Materials Initiative and the Africa-EU Partnership on Raw Materials to support sustainable mining and responsible sourcing of critical minerals from Africa.
  3. Japan and Australia: Japan and Australia have been working together on critical minerals partnerships. Japan seeks to secure a stable supply of critical minerals from Australia to meet its domestic demand, particularly for advanced technologies like electric vehicles and renewable energy systems.
  4. China and African Countries: China has established partnerships with several African countries to secure critical minerals. Through agreements, investments, and infrastructure projects, China has gained access to mineral resources such as cobalt, lithium, and rare earth elements in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and others.
  5. India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership has identified five target projects, consisting of two lithium projects and three cobalt projects, for detailed due diligence. These projects will likely be the focus of investment and collaboration between India and Australia in the critical minerals sector.

India and Australia signify a significant critical minerals investment partnership

The milestone reached between India and Australia signifies a significant critical minerals investment partnership. Here are the key details from the provided information:

  1. Partnership Identification: The India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership has identified five target projects, including two lithium and three cobalt projects, for detailed due diligence.
  2. Deepened Cooperation: The ministers from India and Australia have agreed to deepen cooperation and extend their existing commitments to the India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership.
  3. Building New Supply Chains: The investments made under the partnership aim to develop new supply chains that rely on critical minerals processed in Australia. These minerals will support India's plans to reduce emissions in its electricity network and become a global manufacturing hub, particularly for electric vehicles.
  4. Australia's Role: Australia plays a significant role in the critical minerals market, being the world's second-largest producer of cobalt, fourth-largest producer of rare earths, and producing almost half of the world's lithium. This partnership will help secure mutually beneficial critical mineral supply chains between the two countries.
  5. Investment Commitment: Australia has committed AUD 5.8 million to the three-year India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership.

World’s top countries with largest critical minerals reserves by size

Here are some leading countries with significant reserves of critical minerals, along with the minerals they possess, their mining activities, and their export status.

Critical Minerals: China has substantial reserves of various critical minerals, including rare earth elements (such as neodymium, dysprosium), lithium, cobalt, tungsten, and others.

Mining Activities: China is one of the world's largest producers and processors of critical minerals. It has extensive mining operations for rare earth elements, as well as other minerals.

Export Status: China is a significant exporter of critical minerals, especially rare earth elements, with a dominant position in the global market.

Critical Minerals: DRC is rich in critical minerals, including cobalt, copper, tantalum, and niobium.

Mining Activities: The country is a major global producer of cobalt, accounting for a significant portion of the world's supply. It also has extensive mining operations for copper and other minerals.

Export Status: DRC exports a significant amount of cobalt and copper, supplying these critical minerals to global markets.

Critical Minerals: Australia has significant reserves of critical minerals, including lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements, and others.

Mining Activities: Australia is a leading producer of critical minerals, particularly lithium and cobalt. It also has significant mining operations for rare earth elements and other minerals.

Export Status: Australia is a major exporter of critical minerals, supplying them to global markets, including lithium and rare earth elements.

Critical Minerals: Russia possesses substantial reserves of critical minerals such as palladium, platinum, nickel, cobalt, and rare earth elements.

Mining Activities: Russia is a significant producer of palladium, platinum, nickel, and other critical minerals. It also has mining operations for rare earth elements.

Export Status: Russia exports critical minerals, including palladium, platinum, and nickel, to meet global demand.

Critical Minerals: The United States has significant reserves of critical minerals, including rare earth elements, lithium, cobalt, and others.

Mining Activities: The U.S. has active mining operations for critical minerals, including rare earth elements. Efforts have been made to develop domestic production capabilities for critical minerals.

Export Status: The U.S. both imports and exports critical minerals, depending on the specific mineral and market dynamics. It has taken steps to secure a stable supply of critical minerals and reduce dependence on imports.

  1. China:
  2. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
  3. Australia:
  4. Russia:
  5. United States:
 

Countries that import critical minerals

Several countries import critical minerals to meet their domestic demand and support various industries. While it's challenging to provide specific details about the quantity imported, money spent, and types of critical minerals imported without specific data or context, here are some examples of countries that import critical minerals and the purposes behind their imports:

Critical Minerals Imports: The United States imports various critical minerals, including rare earth elements, lithium, cobalt, and others.

Purpose: The imported critical minerals are used in industries such as electronics, renewable energy, electric vehicles, aerospace, and defense. They are essential for manufacturing products like batteries, magnets, semiconductors, and advanced technological devices.

Critical Minerals Imports: EU member states import critical minerals such as rare earth elements, lithium, cobalt, tungsten, and others.

Purpose: These imported critical minerals are utilized in the manufacturing of electronic devices, batteries, renewable energy systems, electric vehicles, and advanced materials for various industries.

Critical Minerals Imports: Japan imports critical minerals, including rare earth elements, cobalt, lithium, and others.

Purpose: The imported critical minerals are essential for Japan's industries, including electronics, automotive, renewable energy, and advanced technologies. They are used in the production of electronic devices, batteries, magnets, and other high-tech applications.

Critical Minerals Imports: South Korea imports critical minerals such as rare earth elements, lithium, cobalt, and others.

Purpose: The imported critical minerals are crucial for industries like electronics, electric vehicles, renewable energy, and advanced manufacturing. They are used in the production of semiconductors, batteries, magnets, and other high-tech products.

Critical Minerals Imports: India imports critical minerals, including rare earth elements, lithium, cobalt, and others.

Purpose: The imported critical minerals are utilized in various industries, including electronics, automotive, renewable energy, and defense. They are essential for manufacturing electronic devices, batteries, electric vehicles, and other advanced technological applications.

The quantities imported, types of critical minerals, and money spent on imports can vary based on the specific needs and industry demands of each country.

  1. United States:
  2. European Union (EU) Member States:
  3. Japan:
  4. South Korea:
  5. India:
 

What are critical minerals and what are the products in which they are used?

Critical minerals are a group of naturally occurring elements that play a vital role in various industries due to their unique properties and applications. These minerals are considered critical because of their importance to modern technologies, coupled with potential supply chain vulnerabilities. They are essential components in the manufacturing of numerous products that drive our modern society. Here are some critical minerals and their applications:

Rare earth elements include 17 chemically similar elements such as neodymium, dysprosium, and lanthanum. They are widely used in the production of:

Permanent Magnets: REEs are essential for manufacturing high-strength permanent magnets used in motors, generators, hard drives, and speakers.

Catalysts: They are used as catalysts in the petroleum refining industry, automobile exhaust systems, and various chemical processes.

Electronics: REEs are crucial for electronic devices like smartphones, computers, LCD screens, and LED lighting.

Defense Systems: They are vital for advanced defense technologies, including missile guidance systems, radar, and communication devices.

Lithium is a key component in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which are extensively used in:

Electric Vehicles (EVs): Lithium-ion batteries power electric vehicles, providing clean and sustainable transportation solutions.

Portable Electronics: Lithium-ion batteries are found in smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other portable electronic devices.

Energy Storage Systems: Lithium-ion batteries are used in grid-scale energy storage systems to support renewable energy integration and provide backup power.

Cobalt is primarily used in the production of:

Lithium-ion Batteries: Cobalt is a critical component in the cathode of lithium-ion batteries, providing stability, energy density, and extended battery life.

Aerospace Alloys: Cobalt-based superalloys are utilized in jet engines, gas turbines, and other high-temperature applications.

Wear-Resistant Materials: Cobalt is used in the production of cutting tools, wear-resistant alloys, and hard-facing materials.

Graphite is essential for various applications, including:

Lithium-ion Batteries: Natural and synthetic graphite serve as the anode material in lithium-ion batteries, storing and releasing energy.

Refractories: Graphite is used in high-temperature applications such as steelmaking, foundries, and furnace linings.

Lubricants: Graphite is an effective dry lubricant, reducing friction and wear in applications like machinery and automotive components.

Tungsten finds use in several industries, including:

Hard Metals: Tungsten carbide, a composite material, is extensively used in cutting tools, drills, saw blades, and mining equipment.

Electrical and Electronics: Tungsten is employed in electrical contacts, filaments for light bulbs, and X-ray tubes.

Defense Applications: Tungsten alloys are used in armor-piercing projectiles and other defense systems.

These are just a few examples of critical minerals and their applications. Other critical minerals include platinum group metals (platinum, palladium, rhodium), tantalum, niobium, antimony, and many more. Critical minerals are integral to advanced technologies, renewable energy systems, electronics, transportation, and defense industries. Ensuring a sustainable and secure supply of critical minerals is crucial for global economic growth, technological advancement, and the transition to a clean energy future.

  1. Rare Earth Elements (REEs):
  2. Lithium:
  3. Cobalt:
  4. Graphite:
  5. Tungsten:

Are critical minerals important from national interests' perspective?

Critical minerals are of significant importance from a national interests perspective for several reasons:

Economic Growth and Competitiveness: Critical minerals are essential for the manufacturing and development of advanced technologies, including renewable energy systems, electric vehicles, electronics, and defense equipment. Ensuring a reliable and secure supply of critical minerals promotes economic growth and enhances a country's competitiveness in high-tech industries. It fosters innovation, job creation, and export opportunities, contributing to a robust and dynamic economy.

Energy Security: Many critical minerals, such as lithium, cobalt, and rare earth elements, are vital components in energy storage systems, including batteries for electric vehicles and grid-scale energy storage. By securing a domestic or diversified supply of critical minerals, countries can reduce their dependence on foreign sources and mitigate potential supply disruptions, ensuring energy security and stability.

Technological Sovereignty: Critical minerals are fundamental to cutting-edge technologies and advanced manufacturing processes. By maintaining control over critical mineral supply chains, countries can assert technological sovereignty, reducing reliance on foreign suppliers and protecting sensitive industries from geopolitical tensions, trade disputes, or disruptions in global supply chains.

Defense and National Security: Critical minerals play a crucial role in defense systems, including advanced weaponry, communication devices, radar systems, and aircraft components. Ensuring a domestic or diversified supply of critical minerals is essential for national security, reducing vulnerabilities and preserving the capability to develop and maintain advanced defense technologies.

Environmental Sustainability: Critical minerals are essential for the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and energy-efficient devices. Access to critical minerals enables countries to transition to a low-carbon economy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and combat climate change. By securing critical mineral supply chains, nations can contribute to environmental sustainability and meet their climate targets.

 

Technological Advancement and Innovation: Critical minerals drive technological advancement and innovation by enabling the development of next-generation products and solutions. Countries with access to critical minerals can foster research and development, attract investments, and support the growth of emerging industries, propelling them to the forefront of technological innovation and maintaining a competitive edge in the global market.

Geopolitical Influence: Control over critical mineral resources can confer geopolitical influence and strengthen a country's position in international relations. It provides leverage in negotiations, trade agreements, and diplomatic interactions. Countries with significant reserves or diversified access to critical minerals can play a pivotal role in shaping global supply chains, influencing market dynamics, and fostering strategic alliances.

Given these reasons, securing a stable supply of critical minerals and developing resilient supply chains is of paramount importance to safeguard national interests, promote economic prosperity, ensure energy security, foster technological advancement, and enhance overall competitiveness in the global landscape.

Which countries control critical minerals prices, supply chain and production?

Several countries have significant control over critical minerals prices, supply chains, and production due to their substantial reserves, extensive mining operations, and dominant positions in the global market. Here are some countries that exert influence in these areas:

  1. China:
  2. China has a dominant role in the critical minerals market. It controls a significant portion of global production and processing capacity for various critical minerals, including rare earth elements, lithium, cobalt, and tungsten. China's control over critical minerals supply chains and production has given it considerable influence over prices and market dynamics.
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
  4. DRC is a major player in the production of critical minerals, particularly cobalt. The country possesses abundant reserves of cobalt and has significant mining operations. As cobalt is crucial for industries such as electric vehicles and renewable energy storage, DRC's position in the supply chain allows it to exert influence over prices and availability.
  5. Australia:
  6. Australia plays a crucial role in critical minerals production, particularly in sectors such as rare earth elements, lithium, and cobalt. The country has substantial reserves and extensive mining operations, making it one of the world's largest producers of critical minerals. Australia's position in the supply chain gives it significant control over prices and global supply dynamics.
  7. Russia:
  8. Russia has significant control over the production and supply of certain critical minerals. It is a major producer of palladium, platinum, nickel, and other minerals that are critical for industries such as automotive, aerospace, and defense. Russia's influence in these sectors allows it to impact prices and shape supply chain dynamics.
  9. States:
  10. The United States is a notable player in critical minerals production and supply, particularly in sectors like rare earth elements and lithium. While the U.S. is not the largest producer of these minerals, it has the potential to impact the market through its reserves, mining operations, and efforts to develop domestic production capabilities.

It's important to note that control over critical minerals prices, supply chains, and production is a complex and dynamic landscape influenced by multiple factors, including geopolitical dynamics, market forces, and government policies. Other countries and regions also play significant roles in specific critical minerals, and the landscape may evolve over time due to changing demand, technological advancements, and geopolitical developments.

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