“The U.S. has for too long ceded control of the front end of our manufacturing supply chains to foreign nations, assuming the materials we require will be there when we need them,” writes National Mining Association president and CEO Rich Nolan in a recent Boston Herald piece. In doing so, the U.S. has allowed China to establish “dominance of key mineral supply chains that it has now leveraged into stunning dominance of battery manufacturing, the very technological heart of EVs and home to so many of the auto jobs of tomorrow.”
Followers of ARPN are well aware of the “battery arms race” (see our recent post on the issue here) which has led to almost 150 planned for or operational lithium-Ion battery megafactories in China versus fewer than a dozen lined up in the U.S.
Nolan laments that “[d]espite vast domestic resources, the U.S. has one operational lithium mine and just one rare earth mineral mine that must export its production to China for processing. Conversely, China controls 80% of the global rare earth mineral market and 60% of the lithium market. China’s control of other key battery metals like cobalt and graphite is nearly as complete.”
Thankfully, stakeholders in the U.S. after several wake up calls are beginning to realize the urgency of the situation (see our post from earlier this week here) — and the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure passage contains several relevant critical mineral provisions.
However, Nolan is concerned that while there is a sense of urgency within the Biden Administration for accelerating EV deployment to reduce emissions, the “urgency to build a secure, responsible and homegrown material supply chain has yet to materialize.”
Nolan makes a clear appeal for an all-of-the-above approach aligned with the Biden Administration’s 100-Day Supply Chain Review (see our report on it here):
“The scale of the demand coming our way is too large and growing far too quickly for half measures. We must be active participants in securing U.S. EV supply chains, and we must take an all-of-the-above approach to ensure mineral supply chains become an enabler of U.S. EV deployment and American climate action, not an impediment.
Working with allies to source our mineral needs and standing up a robust material recycling sector should be critical pieces of this effort, but they are at best complements to vastly expanding domestic mineral production and processing by American workers under world-leading environmental and labor standards. It’s essential we recognize that U.S. mining policy is now foundational to energy and climate policy. We can be a global leader in the EV revolution, but it won’t happen if we supercharge domestic mineral demand while failing to ramp up U.S. mineral production.”
As lawmakers get back to business after Labor Day, we will look for signs that that the U.S. Government is ready to do more than pay lip service to all of the above, and embrace policy, programs and projects that address the deep shortfalls in Critical Mineral supply — across the entire value chain and with the entire arsenal at its disposal.