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The Energy Seminar: "An uncertain future for the US critical mineral supply chain," Professor Jef Caers, Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Founder, Mineral-X

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Abstract: The United States is strategically disadvantaged in building its critical mineral supply, in particular in the upstream and downstream portion. In this presentation, I will report findings on a year-long conversation with government officials, academics, and international industry experts on the status of the US critical mineral supply chain, in particular in the area of electrification (lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper & REE). Overall, the US and its government agencies lack a coherent view of how a robust, resilient & sustainable supply chain will be built starting from exploration to mining, processing to manufacturing. While important research is ongoing on finding replacement materials and recycling, these activities are likely not to have an impact relative to the state of the energy transition we are finding ourselves in today. Additionally, the US is betting too much on single horses, such as the Salton Sea, that remain unproven at operational scale, are unattractive to investors and constitute an unresolved environmental justice concern. Innovation in exploration in particular is completely neglected which means that proven and mineable reserves of critical minerals remain uncertain. In a simple analogy, the US is researching new technology for farming, but has no land to farm on. In the second portion of my presentation, I will focus on a plausible roadmap with very specific recommendations to get the US on a more certain footing. Important to such roadmap is the timing at which priority on innovation, development and manufacturing needs to take place, how are allies, Australia and Canada, will play a crucial role and how such roadmap requires having Environmental Justice and the Geosciences as pillars of its foundation.


Speaker Bio: Jef Caers received both an MSc (’93) in mining engineering / geophysics and a PhD (’97) in mining engineering from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. Currently, he is Professor of Earth and Planetary at Stanford University, California, USA. Jef Caers’ research interests are data science, artificial intelligence and decision making under uncertainty in developing the critical mineral supply required to transition to 100% renewable energy. Jef Caers is founder of the Mineral-X, a community building effort to strengthen stewardship for a prosperous future for all, powered by Earth's minerals. Jef Caers has published in a diverse range of journals covering Mathematics, Statistics, Earth Sciences, Engineering and Computer Science. Jef Caers authored five books on data science & decision making for natural resources. He was awarded the Krumbein Medal of the International Association of Mathematical Geosciences for his career achievement.


More about the Energy Seminar:

The Energy Seminar has been a mainstay of energy engagement at Stanford for nearly 20 years and is one of the flagship programs of the Precourt Institute for Energy. We aim to bring a wide variety of perspectives to the Stanford community – academics, entrepreneurs, utilities, non-profits, and more. We're proud to have hosted some of the biggest names in the energy world as well as those just starting out. Seminars take place most Mondays during the academic year and typically have an audience of 100+ attendees. Anyone with an interest in energy is welcome to join one seminar or all of them! You can enjoy seminars in the following ways:

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