The federal government and companies are investing in the supply chain for domestic minerals needed for solar panels
President Joe Biden
Executive Order 14017 (EO), America’s Supply Chains, signed a year ago, mandated an assessment of vulnerabilities in our critical minerals and materials supply chains within 100 days. In June, the Biden-Harris administration released a unique supply chain assessment that found our over-reliance on foreign sources and opposing nations for critical minerals and materials posed a national and economic security threat.
President Biden meets with administrative and state partners, industry leaders, community officials, union leaders and California Governor Gavin Newsom to announce major investments in domestic production of key minerals and materials to ensure these resources benefit the community, and to create good pay, union work in sustainable production.
Critical minerals form the building blocks for many modern technologies and are essential to our national security and economic prosperity. These minerals — like rare earth elements, lithium, and cobalt — are found in products ranging from computers to home appliances. They are also important inputs for clean energy technologies such as batteries, electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels.
As the world transitions to a clean energy economy, global demand for these critical minerals will skyrocket by 400-600% over the next few decades, and demand for minerals such as lithium and graphite used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries will continue to increase – up to 4,000%. The US is increasingly dependent on foreign sources for many of the processed versions of these minerals. Globally, China controls most of the market for processing and refining cobalt, lithium, rare earths and other critical minerals.
In addition to working with partners and allies to diversify sustainable sources, the reports recommended expanding domestic mining, production, processing and recycling of critical minerals and materials – all with a clear focus on promoting strong work, environmental and environmental justice, community engagement and Tribal Consultation Standards.
President Biden announces that the US Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program has awarded MP Materials $35 million for the separation and processing of heavy rare earth elements at its Mountain Pass, Calif. facility to achieve a full end-to-end -End permanent magnet for domestic construction to erect supply chain. Along with this catastrophic public funding announcement, MP Materials will announce that it will invest an additional $700 million through 2024 and create more than 350 jobs in the magnet supply chain. Currently, China controls 87% of the global market for permanent magnets used in electric vehicles, motors, defense systems, electronics and wind turbines.
Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables (BHE Renewables) will announce that this spring it will break ground on a new demonstration facility in Imperial County, California to test the commercial viability of its sustainable lithium extraction process from geothermal brine as part of a multi-billion dollar project. Dollar investments in sustainable lithium production over the next five years. If successful, this paves the Company’s path to commercial production of battery grade lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate by 2026. Imperial Valley contains some of the largest lithium deposits in the world. Once scaled up, BHE Renewables’ facilities could produce 90,000 tons of lithium per year.
Redwood Materials, in collaboration with Ford and Volvo, will discuss a pilot project to collect and recycle end-of-life lithium-ion batteries at its Nevada facilities to extract lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite. This builds on Redwood’s recent announcements, including a joint venture with Ford to build a recycling facility in Tennessee and intentions to begin construction of a new cathode manufacturing facility in Nevada in 2022.
Secretary Granholm will discuss the DOE’s first-of-its-kind $140 million demonstration project funded by the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIL) to recover rare earth elements and critical minerals from coal ash and other mine tailings to meet the need for new mining operations to decrease. This project will continue the work of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization by creating high-paying manufacturing jobs in legacy coal communities.
She will also discuss $3 billion in BIL funding to invest in refining battery materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite, and battery recycling facilities to create high-paying jobs in clean energy generation.
MP Materials recently announced construction of a rare earth metals, alloys and magnets manufacturing facility in Texas and a long-term supply agreement with General Motors to power the motors in more than a dozen GM EV models. Production will begin next year, with capacity to manufacture enough magnets to power 500,000 EV motors annually.
In addition to BHE Renewables, Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) and EnergySource Minerals have established operations in Imperial County to extract lithium from geothermal brine. GM will source lithium for EV batteries from CTR. The companies are also working with the state-authorized Lithium Valley Commission to develop a royalty structure that would invest profits from their operations in infrastructure, health and education investments for residents of the surrounding region.
Tesla intends to source high-grade nickel for EV batteries from Talon Metals’ Tamarack Nickel Project, which is under development in Minnesota. Talon Metals and United Steelworkers (USW) formed a human resource development partnership on the project to train workers in the local community and mining regions across the US facing declining demand in next-generation technologies. As part of this partnership, Talon has agreed to remain neutral in all USW union organizing efforts.
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of EO 14017 this Thursday, administrations across the federal government have taken action to ensure reliable and sustainable supplies of critical minerals and materials while upholding the administration’s priorities around labor, the environment and environmental justice, and equity .
This year the Mining Act of 1872 will be 150 years old. This law still regulates the mining of key minerals on federal public lands. The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that it has established an Inter-Agency Working Group (IWG) that will lead administrative efforts on legislative and regulatory reform of mining permits and oversight. The IWG has published a list of the Biden-Harris administration’s basic principles for mining reform to promote responsible mining under strict social, environmental and labor standards that avoid the historical injustice left by too many mining operations. The IWG will present recommendations to Congress by November. They will also host extensive public input and comment sessions to ensure an inclusive process and work with relevant authorities to initiate updates to mining regulations by the end of the calendar year.
In accordance with the Energy Act of 2020, DOI will update its Federal Critical Minerals List to list minerals that are essential to economic or national security and are susceptible to disruption. To focus federal agencies’ work on sourcing critical minerals, the administration will direct agencies to prioritize the production and processing of minerals needed to manufacture key products such as batteries, semiconductors and permanent magnets, consistent with our severe environments -, social and labor principles. DOE, DOD and the State Department signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to better coordinate stockpiling activities to support the U.S. clean energy transition and national security needs. In October, President Biden streamlined the National Defense Stockpile by signing EO 14051 to delegate the release of strategic and critical material to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.