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The Missing Midstream

Identifying Investment Challenges for American Critical Mineral Processing Projects

This report delves into the intricate steps of minerals processing, market dynamics for critical minerals, and the formidable investment challenges of establishing a robust domestic processing base.

In today’s increasingly high-tech economy, access to minerals like nickel, cobalt, copper, lithium, and rare earth elements has emerged as a key concern for a simple reason: these materials are needed to make a wide array of goods and devices that have become indispensable, not only in daily life but also, in many cases, to the nation’s long-term economic, security, and clean energy interests. Examples range from everyday consumer electronics, advanced medical equipment, and specialized alloys used in aircraft engines, satellites, and missiles to the new technologies—like electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy systems—that will be central to the coming energy transition.

As reliance on critical minerals has grown, the fact that China currently controls 80% of global capacity to process these minerals and an even larger share—nearly 90%—of global processing capacity for rare earth elements has drawn increasing alarm. Addressing this challenge has generated strong bipartisan support, both in efforts to diversify global supply chains and for increased investment to build up domestic processing capacity. Midstream processing, in particular, is recognized as a vital link in the value chain for critical minerals, because this is the step that adds significant value to the raw materials by enhancing their purity, functionality, and suitability for use in advanced technologies.

The one-pagers below provide a summary of the investment challenges for U.S. processing projects for select minerals. The one-pagers are also found in the full report, which provides more detail.

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