Technology

Biden is invoking the Defense Production Act to boost critical mineral supplies

The United States imported more than half of its 2020 shipments of at least 46 minerals and its entire shipment of 17 minerals, the study found the US Geological Survey. Many of the materials come from China, which is a world leader in lithium-ion battery manufacture and is known for halting exports of certain products, including rare earth minerals, during times of political tension.

The Biden administration has warned that reliance on foreign materials poses a threat to America’s security and has promised to expand domestic supplies of semiconductors, batteries and pharmaceuticals, among other things. While the United States has some unexplored deposits of nickel, cobalt and other important minerals and metals, mines and processing sites can take many years to develop. Two-thirds of the world’s total cobalt production is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Chinese companies owned or funded 15 of the 19 largest mines as of 2020.

But bipartisan support for expanding America’s mining and processing of battery components has increased in recent years. In a March 11 letter to Mr. Biden, senators including Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, and Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, suggested invoking the Defense Production Act to limit domestic production of the components of lithium-ion battery materials, particularly graphite, manganese, cobalt, nickel, and lithium.

Todd M. Malan, the head of climate strategy at Talon Metals, which is developing a nickel mine in Minnesota, said Washington has reached a bipartisan consensus to give more support to domestic mining of battery minerals for electric vehicles, “driven by concerns about reliance on Russia and China absolutely necessary for battery materials and the energy transition.”

However, some domestic policy developments could face opposition from environmentalists in Biden’s own party.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Wednesday that mining companies are “making opportunistic pleas to advance a decades-old mining agenda that is letting polluters off the hook and leaving Americans at the bottom.” suffer consequences. ”

“Fast mining under antiquated standards that put our public health, wilderness and sacred sites at risk of permanent damage is simply not the answer,” he added.

Dionne Searcey contributed reporting.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/31/business/economy/biden-minerals-defense-production-act.html Biden is invoking the Defense Production Act to boost critical mineral supplies

Mike Fahey

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