The dust begins to settle over the 2020 presidential elections, and President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are busy lining up their policy and personnel priorities.
As the National Mining Association’s Rich Nolan writes in a new piece for Inside Sources, “much of their agenda rests on a foundation provided by the nation’s nearly 600,000 miners — miners and a mining industry ready to do their part to help drive America’s post-pandemic recovery. From infrastructure to affordable, reliable energy, and the reshoring of supply chains, mining is front and center.”
Case in point: A center-piece of the Biden agenda is his climate plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. to net zero by 2050. As Politico’s Luzia Ch. Savage points out, the requirement that all cars sold in the U.S. must be emission free, which is part of this plan, “comes with a not-so-green asterisk: Instead of drilling for oil and gas, electrification requires mining of the more exotic elements of the periodic table. Materials with names like neodymium, niobium, yttrium, along with lithium and cobalt and others, are used in rechargeable batteries, solar cells and other technologies.”
Followers of ARPN are aware of the predicament – the supply chains for many of these critical materials are controlled by China.
Factor in the fact that these materials also are key in the manufacture of military technology such has high-tech precision guided weapons and night vision goggles, as well as for the devices underpinning the tech economy, such as smart phone batteries and semi-conductors, and the rising tensions in U.S.-Chinese relations, and you have a recipe for trouble as China forges ahead in its attempt to “shift the industrial balance of power.”
Acknowledging the emerging tech war, defined by ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty as the “competition to see which country will dominate the 21st Century Technology Age,” the outgoing Trump Administration began taking steps to map out a broader critical mineral strategy in 2018, an effort that culminated in an executive order declaring a critical minerals national emergency and instructing the Department of the Interior to explore the application of the Defense Production Act — used earlier in the year to accelerate production of medical supplies in the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — to promote domestic resource production and development.
Write’s the NMA’s Nolan:
“Winning this industrial arms race and making sure these critical industries are American industries that support American jobs, requires giving mining and mining policy the prominence it deserves.”
“This past year has presented some of the most difficult economic and social challenges of our time, but we can and will, as President-elect Biden says: ‘Build Back Better.’ With the right policy, the mining industry is ready to provide the foundation upon which we launch our recovery. A recovery that increases the competitiveness of American industry, re-establishes and strengthens domestic supply chains, and rebuilds the infrastructure and good jobs Americans need and deserve.”