National Academies Criticality Methodology and Assessment Video (Text Version)
This is a text version of the "National Academies Criticality Methodology and Assessment" video presented at the Critical Materials Workshop, held on April 3, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia.
Dr. Elizabeth Eide, Senior Program Officer, The National Academies
DR. EIDE: Thanks very much. It's a real pleasure to be here this morning speaking to you on behalf of the National Academies' committee on critical minerals and their impacts on the U.S. economy.
May I have the presentation up, please? There it is. There it is, thanks.
I was asked this morning to speak to you a little bit about a report that this committee developed back in 2008. This report was released by the National Academies, and it was titled "Minerals, Critical Minerals, and the U.S. Economy."
And specifically for the purposes here this morning, I was asked if I could provide an overview of the methodology that the committee used to develop what they called a criticality matrix. And this matrix was designed to be a tool that users could develop to use to assess minerals and their criticality with respect to different uses and products. And so I would like to discuss that with you this morning.
A little bit of background to this study. The committee went into the study with a couple of concepts in mind. The first was that minerals are essential, obviously, to U.S. economic activity and quality of life for a whole range of products. I'm here today talking about energy technologies, of course. That the mineral demands and supply chains are very complex another given that many of you are very well aware of. And third, and in a related way, that many technologies require minerals that are not currently available in the United States.
In that way, then, the committee based their report around developing a methodology to analyze the degree to which a mineral is both important or essential in use and subject to supply risk. They also analyzed information and research needs to look at those particular aspects of mineral criticality, but I am going to be focusing on this particular point here this morning.
My overview I would like to discuss the tenets or the basic components of the criticality matrix first, and then I would like to if time allows, to go through two examples to show how the committee employed the criticality matrix, first using an example of copper, and then, if time allows, to look at the platinum group metals.
These show a range, if you will, of how the matrix can be applied across a variety of minerals and applications.
The criticality matrix is just a qualitative overview of the matrix here. Some basic points to keep in mind when applying the matrix are that criticality is dynamic, it changes over time depending of course on technology developments and evolution of different applications and demands.
And criticality is a condition of more or less and not either/or. What I mean by that is that a mineral isn't critical, or it's not critical, but that one mineral may be more critical at a certain period of time than another mineral.
Important in that is thinking about criticality as a concept of degrees, because, again, time is a factor, and criticality will change over time, also dependent on the perspective of the user.
So someone who is making jet engines may have a particular set of critical mineral needs that a maker of cell phones will not. And so the perspective of the user of the matrix is very important as is the timeframe over which the analysis is being considered.
Now, for the matrix itself, it is fairly simple simple idea so that it could be adaptable to different uses. The degree of criticality is determined by the vertical axis, which is the impact of supply restriction or the importance in use of that particular mineral.
On the horizontal axis, we are talking about supply risk or the degree to which a mineral might be constrained, in terms of its supply, to a particular use or application.
Now, the report itself evaluated 11 minerals just to show the diversity of the potential applications. I will be talking about two of those in a moment.
On the graph, then, criticality obviously increases from lower left to upper right. And in this example we wouldn't say that Mineral A is critical and Mineral B is not. But we would say more that Mineral A is more critical than Mineral B at the time the analysis was being conducted. And that is a fairly important concept to keep in mind.
Moving from the qualitative to the semi-quantitative, the committee put axes on the matrix with a scale ranging from one to four on both sides. So as one increases from one to four on the vertical axis, the impact of the supply restriction becomes more important, and the same for the supplier risk. So, again, as you move from lower left to upper right, the degree of criticality of that particular mineral will increase.
Now, I would like to go through verbally just the considerations that should be taken into account or that the committee took into account in developing each of these axes, and then finish up by way of examples with copper and the platinum group metals.
Taking the vertical axis first, the considerations to keep in mind with the importance in use or the impact of supply restriction are basically which products or applications use that mineral of interest. What products are you interested in? What is if you are looking at rare earths, what are the products where rare earths are used?
In a related way, then, it is important, then, to take the next step and think about the functionality of those products and why that particular mineral is important for the function or operation of that application.
Functionality, in turn, is dependent on or related to the minerals' physical and chemical properties, and that was already mentioned here this morning. That spins directly into the issue of substitutability.
So what is it about that particular mineral and its properties that is very important for that particular product and its operation? And is there a way that we can substitute away from that mineral and still obtain or still achieve the same degree of functionality?
Moving on to the horizontal axis, then, the availability and reliability of supply or the concept of supply risk, the timeframe is really, really important to consider. You might have a different set of considerations, whether you are looking at a short-term issue, medium-term issue, or a long-term issue.
The short and medium term may stretch into some of those are economic, you might think about significant increases in demand or thin markets, a concentration in production. By that, I mean concentration in production in the hands of just a few companies or one particular country.
Production mainly as a byproduct, for example, too, because the mineral will have a dependency on the main product being produced from that particular mine. And then, recycling works into this factor as well. If recycling is well established for that particular mineral, secondary supplies may be available that could be depended upon.
In the long term, the restrictions are a bit different. We're thinking more about issues such as geologic availability. Is that mineral even available in that particular geologic province or in that country? Technology issues is it easy enough to extract and process? Environmental and social concerns, political concerns, and of course the economics of developing that mineral or material.
Substitutability plays in here again, especially with the time factor, because certain materials, minerals, may be more easily substituted over shorter periods of time, while others may take a longer time to develop. And that is important to keep in mind as well.
And, finally, the committee was particularly interested to emphasize that the import dependence in and of itself is not a complete indicator of supply risk, because these other factors short- and long-term factors play a role in that regard, too.
So I would like to move quickly to the example of copper. It is familiar to everyone. Folks know what the major products the major products where copper is used. So I would like to look at the vertical axis first. How would we classify this, put copper on this criticality matrix?
Looking at the applications and uses and the important applications themselves, building and construction and energy or wiring, electrical wiring, are truly the essential uses of copper in the United States annually. Seventy percent of copper goes into these particular uses each year.
And I should say these are data that are related to 2007 information. And this information derived for the report came from the U.S. Geological Survey as well as other sources.
The physical and chemical properties of the mineral come into play here. Substitution is difficult for wiring, whereas for plumbing applications you may have some degree of substitution.
The short- and medium- and long-term issues with copper, there is diverse availability. Globally, there is some domestic supply. Technically, it is not difficult to extract. It is well established. There is low geopolitical and environmental concerns, and so forth.
So the risk to the supply of copper is low. So plotting this on the graph, the composite for the impact of supply restriction for copper, the composite value for that is the orange circle there, the large orange circle. It is actually fairly high.
But because the supply risk is low, we would say that copper at this time is important, but it is not actually critical. And so that is just one way in which the application for this criticality matrix can be demonstrated.
I will skip over the platinum group metals example, and simply say that the committee emphasized that this was just one tool and that the idea with this tool was that it could be adaptable to a variety of users for a variety of applications, as the Department of Energy has actually done with respect to their energy technologies.
And I hope that this overview of how the matrix was developed was helpful to the discussions this morning. Thanks very much. (Applause.)