Alternative Mining Technologies & Research
Critical element crises are driven not only by shortages in supply, but by the demand for technologies that use the critical elements. Our encouragement of R&D and implementation of alternative technologies is essential to ensuring that there will be alternative technologies that will decrease demand for critical materials. As R&D can take years to result in viable alternatives on the market, steps to encourage R&D and implementation of alternative technologies must be taken in the present day.
Some alternative technologies do not replace the role of critical elements, but rather make existing processes significantly more efficient. For example, lithium-ion batteries have become increasingly important for renewable energy endeavours like wind, solar, and electric vehicles. One of the new innovative ways to greatly increase the recharge-ability and energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries is to use vanadium oxide nano-wires as the cathodes, which in effect, reduces the energy lost in lithium-ion batteries. This, and other increases in energy storage technology has allowed for increased commercial viability, but entails the use of a rare earth element, not to mention lithium's strategic importance.
Recycle Mining : Future Prospects
Currently, retrieving and recycling many strategic elements is a complex and energy-intensive process but we pride ourselves and our input in doing so. Although small consumer electronic devices are one of the largest applications of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) such as neodymium and dysprosium, recovering these elements in an economically viable way is challenging because the metals are present only in trace concentrations (less than 1%). Additionally, strategic elements are often used in the form of alloys, making it difficult to retrieve an element of interest in its pure form. In order to overcome these issues, the first steps of our plan involves extensive research and development of recyclable products and recycling techniques.
Many electronic devices, such as cell phones, contain very small amounts of strategic elements. These elements are present in such small quantities that they cannot be recycled in an economically viable manner with current technology. Consequently, they are simply discarded under the status quo, wasting many resources that could be potentially be reused in the future. What Mission 2016 proposes is to implement a stockpile of devices containing strategic elements until they can be viably recycled.