WASHINGTON — President Biden took steps Thursday to try to increase domestic production of critical minerals and metals needed for advanced technologies such as electric vehicles, in an effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers.
Mr. Biden invoked the Defense Production Act, a measure that will give the government more means to support the extraction, processing and recycling of critical materials, such as lithiumnickel plated, cobalt, graphite and manganese. These are used to make large capacity batteries for electric cars and clean energy storage systems. Yet, with the exception of a handful of mines and facilities, they are almost exclusively produced outside the United States.
“We need to end our long-term dependence on China and other countries for inputs that will fuel the future,” Biden said during a White House address, where he also announced the release of one million barrels of oil per day from the strategic petroleum reserve.
The Defense Production Act is a Cold War-era law that gives the president access to increased funding and other powers to strengthen America’s industrial base and ensure the private sector has the resources it needs to defend security. national and deal with emergencies.
In a ruling released Thursday, the president said the United States was dependent on “unreliable foreign sources” for many materials needed to transition to clean energy use, and that demand for these materials is expected to increase by exponential way.
Mr Biden has ordered his Secretary of Defense to bolster the supply of critical minerals by supporting feasibility studies for new projects, encouraging waste recovery at existing sites and upgrading or increasing production in national mines of lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and other so-called critical minerals.
The secretary of defense would also conduct an investigation into the national industrial base for critical minerals and submit it to the president and Congress, the presidential decision said.
A person familiar with the matter said the actions being considered would not be loans or outright purchases of minerals, but rather the funding of studies and the expansion or upgrading of new and existing sites.
The administration will also consider other potential uses of the law in relation to the energy sector, according to a White House announcement Thursday.
The United States imported more than half of its supply of at least 46 minerals in 2020, and all of its supply of 17 of them, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Many materials come from China, which is the world’s leading manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries and is known to halt exports of certain products during times of political tension. including rare earth minerals.
The Biden Administration has warned that a reliance on foreign materials poses a threat to America’s security, and pledged to increase the domestic supply of semiconductors, batteries and pharmaceuticals, among other goods. Although the United States has unexplored deposits of nickel, cobalt and other crucial minerals and metals, the development of mines and processing sites can take many years. Two-thirds of the world’s population all cobalt production is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Chinese companies owned or financed 15 of the 19 largest mines in 2020.
But bipartisan support for expanding U.S. battery component mining and processing has grown in recent years. In a March 11 letter to Mr. Biden, senators including Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, and Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, proposed invoking the Defense Production Act to speed up production national lithium-ion battery materials components. , including graphite, manganese, cobalt, nickel and lithium.
Todd M. Malan, head of climate strategy for Talon Metals, which is developing a nickel mine in Minnesota, said Washington had reached a bipartisan consensus on providing more support for domestic mineral mining. electric vehicle batteries” driven by concern over dependence on Russia and China for battery materials as well as the energy transition imperative.
But some domestic developments could face opposition from environmentalists in Mr Biden’s own party.
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Wednesday that mining companies “are making opportunistic pleas to advance a decades-old mining agenda that leaves polluters get away with it and let the Americans suffer the consequences. ”
“Accelerated mining to outdated standards that put our public health, wilderness and sacred sites at risk of permanent damage is simply not the solution,” he added.
Dionne Searcey contributed report.