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Sunday, December 04, 2022

Quick payoff unlikely in Biden order to boost lithium mining

President Joe Biden is turning to Cold War-era legislation to boost the production of lithium and other minerals used to power electric vehicles, but experts say the move could strengthen domestic mining. is unlikely to be ensured as he promotes clean energy sources.

The White House said Biden’s action, part of his efforts to find alternatives to fossil fuels and tackle climate change, does not waive or suspend existing environmental and labor standards. Nor does it address the main obstacle to domestic extraction of so-called critical minerals: the years-long process required to obtain a federal permit for a new mine.

Still, supporters in the mining industry and Congress applauded Biden’s use of the 1950 Defense Production Act to increase U.S. supplies of lithium, nickel and other minerals needed for electric-vehicle batteries and other clean-energy technology.

National Mining Association President and CEO Rich Nolan said his March 31 executive order is a historic move by the White House to “recognize the critical importance of minerals and push to electrify the car industry.”

But “unless we continue to build on this action” and approve new hard-rock mines, Nolan said, “we risk feeding the minerals dominance of geopolitical rivals such as China and Russia.” Huh.”

“We have abundant mineral resources here,” he said. “We need policy to make sure we can produce them and build the safe, reliable supply chain we know we need to have.”

File - Tesla Cars Are Loaded Onto Carriers At The Tesla Electric Car Plant On May 13, 2020 In Fremont, Calif.

FILE – Tesla cars are loaded onto carriers at the Tesla Electric Car Plant on May 13, 2020 in Fremont, Calif.

environmental concern

Environmentalists, meanwhile, worry that Biden is activating a war-time tool to promote mineral extraction that could contaminate groundwater and harm animal husbandry and wildlife.

“The clean energy transition cannot be built on dirty mining,” said Lauren Pagel, policy director at Earthworks, an environmental group that has emphasized strong restrictions on hard-rock mining.

Biden’s order instructs the Defense Department to consider at least five metals — lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese — as essential to national security and authorizes steps to increase domestic supplies. Both Biden and former President Donald Trump have previously used the Defense Production Act to speed up the US response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On minerals, Biden wants to make sure the US has enough lithium and other materials for EV batteries, heat pumps and large-capacity batteries for the electric grid. The majority of global lithium production comes from China, Australia, Argentina and Chile, while Russia dominates the global nickel market, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the world’s largest cobalt producer.

“We need to end our long-term dependence on China and other countries that will power the future,” Biden said.

File - A Dry Part Of The Salton Sea Stretches Along A Geothermal Power Plant In The Distance Of Niland, Calif., July 15, 2021.  Lithium Can Be Extracted From Geothermal Wastewater Surrounding A Rapidly Shrinking Body Of Water.

FILE – A dry part of the Salton Sea stretches along a geothermal power plant in the distance of Niland, Calif., July 15, 2021. Lithium can be extracted from geothermal wastewater surrounding a rapidly shrinking body of water.

‘Saudi Arabia of Lithium’

Although lithium reserves are widely distributed around the world, the US is home to only one active lithium mine in Nevada. New and potential lithium mining and extraction projects are in various stages of development in Nevada, Maine, North Carolina and California. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has called California the “Saudi Arabia of lithium” and two projects there could produce lithium by 2024.

Under Biden’s order, the Pentagon is authorized to spend millions of dollars to support a number of activities, including a feasibility study to determine the economic viability of a proposed mine and to develop mineral-waste recycling programs. . The Pentagon said the money could also help existing mines and other industrial sites to produce valuable materials. For example, a copper mine can also produce nickel.

It is not clear how much money will be available for mining, but the Defense Department is authorized to keep up to $750 million on hand for its strategic and critical material reserves.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., called Biden’s order “a good first step toward expanding our electric vehicle battery manufacturing and infrastructure.” But he and other lawmakers said the US needed a long-term strategy to improve the domestic supply chain of the critical minerals.

File - Sen. John Barrasso, Left, Walks To A Meeting On Capitol Hill, February 11, 2019 In Washington.

FILE – Sen. John Barrasso, left, walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill, February 11, 2019 in Washington.

“We shouldn’t expect to see any meaningful increase in U.S. mineral production until the president streamlines permission,” said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Barrasso urged Biden to “stand up for mining opponents in his own party”.

Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, mishandled Biden’s order.

“Fast-tracking mining under outdated standards that puts our public health, forests and sacred sites at risk of permanent damage is not the answer,” he said.

Grijalva and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D.N.M. introduced legislation to modernize the 1872 law that governed hard-rock mining in the US.

“Our current mining law was implemented before we even knew what a car was, not an electric car at all,” Grijalva said. “The modernization of this remnant of the law isn’t extreme or anti-industry — it’s just common sense.”

Mining companies have extracted hundreds of billions of dollars worth of gold, silver, copper and other minerals “without paying a cent in federal royalties” from federal lands over the past 150 years, Grijalva and Henrik said in a statement. The House bill would establish a 12.5% ​​royalty on new mining operations and an 8% royalty on existing operations.

mining law reform

The bill would also set up a Hardrock Minerals Reclamation Fund to pay industry for cleaning up abandoned mine sites.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 40% of watersheds in the western US are contaminated by hard-rock mine drainage. Many nickel, copper, lithium and cobalt deposits lie within 56 kilometers of tribal land.

Indigenous people living near a proposed lithium mine in Nevada protested Biden’s order.

“I believe this is going to be the second coming of environmental destruction,” said de Hinkey, a member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone tribe and an organizer with the people of Red Mountain, a group that controls the giant Thacker Pass. Resists the lithium mine. in northern Nevada.

There are plans to build another Nevada lithium mine near a desert ridge where a rare wildflower has been proposed to be listed as an endangered species. The mine’s developer, Australia-based Ionair, said the expected habitat protection for the rare Tyham’s buckwheat would not affect its mining activities, and that company operations would not jeopardize the conservation of the species.

Opponents opposed it. Hinkey said the first environmental crisis was caused by the fossil fuel industry “and I believe this will be the next lithium mining.”

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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