Biden invokes Defense Production Act to increase supply of critical minerals

The United States imported more than half of its supply of at least 46 minerals in 2020, and all of its supply of 17 of them, according to the US Geological Survey. Many of the materials come from China, which is the world’s leading manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries and is known to have halted exports of certain products during times of political tension, including rare earth minerals.

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

But bipartisan support for expanding U.S. battery component mining and processing has grown in recent years. In a March 11 letter to Mr. Biden, senators including Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, and Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, proposed invoking the Defense Production Act to speed up production national lithium-ion battery materials components. , including graphite, manganese, cobalt, nickel and lithium.

Todd M. Malan, head of climate strategy for Talon Metals, which is developing a nickel mine in Minnesota, said Washington had reached a bipartisan consensus on providing more support for domestic mineral mining. electric vehicle batteries” driven by concern over dependence on Russia and China for battery materials as well as the energy transition imperative.

But some domestic developments could face opposition from environmentalists in Mr Biden’s own party.

Representative 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 leaves polluters get away with it and let the Americans suffer the consequences. ”

“Accelerated mining to outdated standards that put our public health, wilderness and sacred sites at risk of permanent damage is simply not the solution,” he added.

Dionne Searcey contributed report.

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