America Is Finally Getting Serious About Battery Metal Shortages

The Biden Administration is preparing to give a legislative boost to domestic mining of key battery minerals as it aims to reduce foreign reliance on critical metals in boosting clean energy.

US President Joe Biden is expected this week to invoke a defense bill to allow US businesses access to financing, which can be used to increase productivity and security and improve existing operations, they said. sources with knowledge of the plans. Reuters.

Still, the planned addition of key battery metals to the list of items in the Defense Production Act of 1950 is not expected to ease the permitting process for mining critical minerals in the United States, Bloomberg said. reports.

Permitting and other state and federal regulations, as well as building a national supply chain for lithium and other minerals crucial to President Biden’s push for greener energy sources and the electrification of transportation, would take years, if not a decade, analysts and industry officials say. The immediate supply chain crisis for major battery metals will not go away in the short and possibly medium term, as demand for lithium, nickel, cobalt and other key metals is soaring and so are the prices.

Meanwhile, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the National Mining Association and the US Chamber of Commerce are calling for more support from the Administration to ensure that the United States has the opportunity to acquire domestically a portion largest of the key minerals.

“We must make sure to insure the materials”

“We must ensure that we secure the materials needed for the clean energy economy in a way that meets our stringent environmental, labor and tribal engagement standards and does not leave us dependent on unreliable and unsustainable foreign supply chains,” said a source with knowledge. of the Administration’s plans told Reuters.

In the global race to secure critical minerals, the United States is currently losing to China.

US imports more than half of its annual consumption of 31 of 35 critical minerals, Department of Energy said at the start of President Biden’s term. The United States has no domestic production for 14 of those critical minerals and relies entirely on imports to meet its demand.

As of early 2021, the US imported 80 percent of its rare earth elements (REEs) directly from China, with the remaining portions indirectly sourced from China through other countries, the DOE said.

At the end of a 100-day review of critical supply chains and critical minerals, the White House and the Administration decided in June 2021 to establish a task force comprised of federal agencies “to identify potential sites where critical minerals could be sustainably and responsibly produced and processed in the United States while adhering to the highest environmental, labor, community engagement standards and sustainability”.

The imminent planned inclusion of key minerals in items covered by the Defense Production Act could help US domestic production in the future, but it could be years before US reliance on minerals is reduced. metals from China and Russia.

The United States need to move faster in obtaining key minerals at the national level and from allies such as Australia; otherwise America’s clean energy goals and high-tech and automotive supply chains could become dependent on China.

“On critical minerals, actions speak louder than words”

This week, a month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rocked energy and metals markets, US companies reaffirmed their calls for the United States to move faster to acquire as many critical minerals at home as possible.

“The war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed against Russia have once again underscored the precarious nature of America’s growing reliance on critical minerals and the lack of local supply,” Ruth Demeter, Senior Policy Director, Global Energy Institute of the US Chamber of Commerce wrote on Wednesday.

The US currently relies on China, Russia and other countries for most of its critical mineral needs, Demeter says.

Earlier this year, the Biden Administration canceled two leases, halting a project that would have provided a national source of copper, nickel, cobalt and platinum, Demeter noted.

“The White House is right to prioritize supply chain issues, but its clean energy goals further highlight the importance of a comprehensive strategy for a secure and reliable supply of critical minerals. Without increased development, production, and processing of critical minerals domestically, the Administration is impeding its own clean energy promises,” the US Chamber of Commerce said.

“However, actions speak louder than words, and at this time the Administration’s actions do not match its commitments,” Demeter wrote.

Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said last week that the United States has resources of nickel, cobalt, graphite, copper, lithium and rare earths.

“But producing these resources remains an enormous challenge made more difficult by self-imposed barriers,” Nolan wrote in a post on RealClearEnergy.

“While the Biden administration has shown important leadership in identifying the scale of the materials challenge and has shown a willingness to address it, a comprehensive policy to attack the problem has yet to materialize,” he added.

While a mega-battery factory could take as little as two years to build, right now it could take a decade to get permits for a mine to supply just one of the metals for such a mega-factory, Nolan said.

“The rate at which we create demand for these minerals and metals is growing increasingly out of sync with our ability, and that of our allies, to bring supply in line to match it,” Nolan said.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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