From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
DOMESTIC MINING STILL ON THE TABLE: The Biden administration is tentatively backing domestic mining to help meet the growing demand for critical minerals that will be created by aggressive adoption of electric vehicles and renewable energy.
In a report on supply chain vulnerabilities released June 8, the Biden administration doesn’t rule out bolstering the domestic mining sector, as previous reports had suggested it might due to environmental concerns.
The issue is tricky for President Joe Biden. Meeting his ambitious climate plans will undoubtedly prompt significant growth in the demand for critical minerals. Environmentalists and tribal groups, however, have often balked at expanding mining on U.S. soil, arguing the projects will destroy lands and habitats and jeopardize the health of low-income and minority people living closest to the mining sites.
Nonetheless, the administration’s report outlines domestic production of critical minerals, including lithium, nickel, and cobalt needed for electric car batteries, as a vital piece of the administration’s strategy to secure a domestic supply chain for minerals that China largely dominates the production of today. The report also recommends boosting the U.S. ability to process critical minerals, expanding recycling of batteries and minerals, and supporting research to produce minerals through means other than mining.
A significant caveat: The Biden administration’s report does not include many recommendations that would help push pending critical minerals projects across the finish line more quickly.
For example, while the report acknowledges that mining projects in the United States often take 10 years or more to build, the administration doesn’t say whether it will work to speed up permitting for mining efforts, as industry groups and Republican lawmakers have encouraged.
Instead, the Biden administration is calling for the development of “sustainability” standards for critical minerals mining, to ensure any new domestic production meets strong environmental requirements. The report suggests the Energy Department and the EPA lead development of such standards, though it does not define what would qualify as “sustainably produced” critical minerals.
“A recognized sustainability standard, potentially backed by legislation, and coordinated with trading partners, would encourage private sector investment in sustainable sources and increase supply chain resilience,” reads the critical minerals section of the report, led by the Defense Department.
Mining industry is optimistic: For now, the mining industry is welcoming the Biden administration’s report, and they are underscoring that the supply chain risks the report identifies make it clear that more domestic minerals production is needed.
“Rebuilding domestic mineral production to underpin infrastructure reinvestment, our national security, and to deploy advanced energy technologies at the speed and scale climate action requires means we must move immediately to support domestic mining, reduce barriers to bring responsible production to market, and ensure that ‘Made in America’ is also ‘Mined in America,’” said Rich Nolan, CEO of the National Mining Association, in a statement.
Biden’s test to come, however, will be whether and how quickly his administration allows shovel-ready mining projects, most of which face environmentalist opposition, to move forward. Having a readily available supply of these minerals will be important to Biden’s climate plans.
For example, Energy Department analysis included in the supply chain report shows that reaching 100% electric vehicle sales in the United States would require a supply of lithium 200% greater than what was mined in 2019.