ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Simon Moores must have struck a nerve when he called the U.S. a “bystander” in the current battery arms race during a recent Congressional hearing.
His message — “Those who control these critical raw materials and those who possess the manufacturing and processing know how, will hold the balance of industrial power in the 21st century auto and energy storage industries” — must have resonated with stakeholders.
As Reuters reported over the weekend, U.S. government officials, including select members of Congress, representatives from the U.S. Department of State, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, as well as the U.S. Geological Survey are looking to sit down with executives from automakers and lithium miners early next month “as part of a first-of-its-kind effort to launch a national electric vehicle supply chain strategy.”
Sources familiar with the effort told Reuters that Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources committee, will look to introduce “standalone legislation aimed at streamlining the permitting process for lithium and other mines,”and addressing other critical minerals issues, parts of which were included in previous broader energy legislation in prior Congresses but failed to garner consent in both chambers at the time.
With China already dominating the EV supply chain, the stakes are high. As Senator John Hoeven (R, North Dakota), told Reuters, the U.S. “need[s] to find ways to more efficiently develop our nation’s domestic critical mineral supply because these resources are vital to both our national security and our economy.”
While underscoring the complexity of the situation, industry representatives see a great opportunity for the United States to enact policy changes that could “encourage development of a domestic supply chain to mine, process and supply lithium, nickel, cobalt and graphite for battery manufacturers and automakers,”— changes that, in the eyes of one mining executive provide “the perfect blueprint to make America great again.”
According to Reuters, the May meetings will include both workshops on financing and permitting issues, and one-on-one meetings between regulators and industry executives.
This is encouraging news, which will hopefully be complemented by a renewed push to develop a broader critical minerals strategy, as outlined the 2017 presidential executive order on critical minerals.
The rest of the world will not wait for us, so the time to get off the starting block is now.