Energy & Environment

Biden administration announces mineral supply chain push

The Biden administration announced on Tuesday actions taken by both the federal government and private industry that it says will bolster the critical mineral supply chain. 

The minerals targeted by the administration are those used in technologies including electric vehicles, batteries, solar panels and wind turbines — as well as electronics and defense systems. 

According to a White House fact sheet, on the private side, MP Materials will invest $700 million in the magnet supply chain, creating 350 jobs by 2024 and that the company will be given an additional $35 million from the federal government for a magnet supply chain and the processing of rare earth elements. 

Meanwhile, Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables will break ground on a facility to test viability of a sustainable extraction process for lithium — a mineral that’s used in batteries.

In the federal government, the Interior Department launched an interagency group pursuing “legislative and regulatory reform of mine permitting and oversight.” The fact sheet didn’t specify whether this reform would add restrictions or take them away. 

But, the Interior Department’s press release announcing the group notes that currently, mining companies can stake claims “regardless of potential conflicts with other uses” and don’t have to pay royalties to the government for the minerals they extract. 

It said that the group would “make recommendations for improvements necessary to ensure that new production meets strong environmental and community and Tribal engagement standards…while improving the efficiency and outcomes of the permitting process.”

The group will deliver recommendations to Congress by November, according to the White House. 

Meanwhile, the department was also expected to update its list of critical minerals. Last year, a draft update excluded uranium, which is used in nuclear energy. The Trump administration had included uranium on its 2018 list, but the Biden administration has argued that it can’t be included because of a 2020 law that excluded “fuel minerals.”

Meanwhile, other agencies are expected to tout portions of the bipartisan infrastructure law, like the Energy Department, which was given $3 billion for battery recycling facilities and refining battery materials including lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite. 

The administration sought to frame its push as both a boost to sustainability, as well as lessening the nation’s dependence on China, which is a major producer of some minerals. 

“As the world transitions to a clean energy economy, global demand for these critical minerals is set to skyrocket by 400-600 percent over the next several decades,” the fact sheet said. 

“The U.S. is increasingly dependent on foreign sources for many of the processed versions of these minerals,” it added, particularly referencing China’s dominance on materials like lithium and cobalt. 

Updated: 2:34 p.m.


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