A natural resource strategist, he has trekked around the world, from a vast niobium mine in Brazil to an antiquated processing plant in Estonia, investigating how a bunch of exotic-sounding elements have transformed our lives. The name is somewhat misleading.
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Yet, as The Elements of Power reveals, it is a combination of shaky supply chains and shady practices that fuels our hi-tech world. After all, to be in the vanguard of technological development, countries need access to rare metals. Indeed, as the book reveals, such geopolitics are real: China has encouraged foreign companies to set up manufacturing bases there, while in it halted rare earth exports to Japan in response to a territory dispute. Meanwhile our consumption of rare metals is increasing, featuring in everything from bridges to weapons, electric cars to wind turbines.
But while their mining, production and even recycling can take a heavy toll, particularly in China. Ultimately, The Elements of Power invites readers to reflect on the ramifications of our gadget-filled lives. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. What struck me was the fact that nobody was taking notes using a pen and paper — each student was typing away on his or her Mac or PC. While the presentation went well, we were astonished by the lack of knowledge the students had regarding the global supply chain risks inherent in many of the metals and minerals used in the technology that we take for granted.
Were the students aware that the cobalt in their computer was quite likely not ethically sourced?
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This generated several questions. What about the fact that many of these metals and minerals are critical for national defense and China a strategic adversary essentially controls the bulk of production of many of them?
There were no easy answers to these questions then and there are no easy answers today. But the general ignorance of the underlying supply chain dynamics and the strategic and tactical threats have likely increased despite a horribly depressed metals market. Unfortunately, these students were likely a microcosm of the broader populace who are unaware of the destabilizing effects of foreign mineral dependence on supply chains for rare metals.
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It aligns perfectly with our current world view surrounding convergence of lifestyles on a global scale. For the sake of clarity, Mr. Abraham provides a broader definition of rare metals rather than what many of you may be familiar with including niobium, lithium, or gallium.
This book is a call to action as he highlights the commercial and militarily risks associated with indefinite resource dependence well into the future. This may be exacerbated by the fact that as the world turns increasingly towards renewable energy which are enormously dependent on rare metals to function properly, the potential for supply chain disruptions may increase. His firsthand accounts of visits to Niobium mines in Brazil or rare earth processing facilities in Estonia not only make you feel as if you were present, but help elucidate the scope of the challenge regarding resource dependence.
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The book is organized in such a way that the reader understands the challenges facing each part of the rare metal value chain from exploration and development, to mining, to refining, to trading, to manufacturing of end products like magnets. Because of this, different readers are likely to have certain chapters of the book hit home more than others. That was certainly the case with me when Mr.
Abraham discusses the junior mining sector and the low probability of success. Because of this, Mr. While this is a generalization, it is mostly true and Mr. Despite this lack of trust and utter value destruction, Mr.
Abraham states:. Well put and very true, but with the capital markets shut down for mining investment and institutional and retail investors still nursing their wounds from the end of the commodity super cycle, any investment in the critical metals sector will have to come from somewhere else. Given that most metals prices have crashed and more pain is likely to come, it would be interesting to see how many of these junior mining projects are economic at current prices or how the entire market, from producer to explorer has adjusted to this new reality.