Besides Exsolve, the two also jump-started two mining-specific projects — Relevant Copper and Relevant Gold, which aim to discover and develop economically sustainable mining operations in the U.S. Those two are formed as Canadian parent companies with U.S. subsidiaries. The eventual aim for those companies is to list them on a Canadian stock exchange that has more experience with listing junior mining exploration companies.
Exsolve of the three is the furthest along in commercialization. They are also considering licensing the Exsolve technology to other companies.
A 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Energy highlights how vulnerable the U.S. economy is to sources of critical materials. The report states that 60% of the world's cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 80% of that supply is processed in China.
Bergmann and Lentz envision a closed-loop economic cycle for reclaiming those critical materials already here in industrial waste. Ironically, one of their sources are the spent drill bits used in geological exploration and mining.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Feb. 24 asking for a 100-day review of America's supply chains to find more resilient, diverse and secure sources for all manner of objects including critical minerals.
Other companies also are looking at new ways of recycling to supply the critical minerals needed for EV batteries. But many of those companies are looking at ways to recycle spent lithium ion batteries to reclaim critical minerals.
Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., has a ReCell Center that, working with academia, industry and other national laboratories, is advancing recycling methods to improve the economics of battery recycling for the life cycle of current and future battery technologies.
Jeff Spangenberger, who leads the ReCell group, said recycling can give the U.S. additional domestic supply of critical metals.
"We don't produce most of the material that are in our batteries, so if we can buy them once, keep them here, that creates a big advantage for us," he said.
So far, Bergmann and Lentz have kept funding pretty close to home, with the most recent round of financing from founders, friends and family. They are eager to reward those investors with an eventual public offering of Exsolve or the two mining companies Relevant Copper and Relevant Gold.
All the deals are independent and structured differently.
"It gave us the ability to more rapidly push one of them toward that public listing point, hopefully in 2021," Bergmann said.
It helps, too, that those friends and family members have a clear understanding of their goals of finding domestic, responsible and sustainable sources of critical minerals.
"A lot of the same people came into all of the ventures and we saw that as a big boost of support in us and the projects we have going on," Lentz said.©2021 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.