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  • U.S. Department of Energy Announces Federal Grants to “Supercharge” U.S. EV Battery and Electric Grid Supply Chains

    The global push towards net zero carbon marches on, and with sales of EVs continuing to soar even as prices rise, analysts suggest that the world could be nearing a critical electric vehicle sales tipping point, when volatile adoption trends are overtaken by mainstream demand.” 

    With skyrocketing demand, the mineral intensity of the green energy transition and supply chain challenges associated with our over-reliance on adversary nations, most notably China, has finally resonated with stakeholders. The passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the summer of 2021 represented an important step towards decoupling U.S. critical mineral supply chains from adversary nations.  Others have since followed.

    Today marks another key step: As part of the implementation of the 2021 infrastructure law, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the first round of funding under the Act for projects aimed at “supercharging”  U.S. manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles and electric grid.

    Awardees — a total of 20 companies — will receive a combined $2.8 billion “to build and expand commercial scale facilities in 12 states to extract and process lithium, graphite and other battery materials, manufacture components, and demonstrate new approaches, including manufacturing components from recycled materials.”

    According to the Department of Energy announcement, recipients will match the federal funds to leverage a total of more than $9 billion “to boost American production of clean energy technology, create good-paying jobs, and support President Biden’s national goals for electric vehicles to make up half of all new vehicle sales by 2030 and to transition to a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.”

    The supported projects span the entire value chain, with funding going towards:

    • Developing enough battery-grade lithium to supply approximately 2 million EVs annually
    • Developing enough battery-grade graphite to supply approximately 1.2 million EVs annually
    • Producing enough battery-grade nickel to supply approximately 400,000 EVs annually
    • Installing the first large-scale, commercial lithium electrolyte salt (LiPF6) production facility in the United States
    • Developing an electrode binder facility capable of supplying 45% of the anticipated domestic demand for binders for EV batteries in 2030
    • Creating the first commercial scale domestic silicon oxide production facilities to supply anode materials for an estimated 600,000 EV batteries annually
    • Installing the first lithium iron phosphate cathode facility in the United States

    The map provides a snapshot of anticipated project locations:

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    More details and individual project information can be accessed here.

    According to DoE, the department “anticipates moving quickly on additional funding opportunities to continue to fill gaps in and strengthen the domestic battery supply chain,” and ARPN will continue to keep tabs on these efforts.

     

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  • U.S. Senator Demands Information From Department of Energy over Potential Chinese Ties Relating to Nevada Mining Project

    As geopolitical tensions between China and the West are on the rise, and critical mineral supply chain pressures continue to mount against the backdrop of the accelerating green energy transition, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm demanding information from her department regarding recent reports that the Department of Energy (DOE) may provide taxpayer-funded support for a proposed lithium mine with ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

    Lithium Americas, a Vancouver, Canada-based company is, according to its website“focused on advancing lithium projects in Argentina and the United States to production,” and the company is looking to advance its Thacker Pass projection in Humboldt County, Nevada.   In order to finance it, the company has applied for a loan under the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which is part of the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

    Writes Sen. Cotton:

    “Worryingly, media reports indicate that Lithium Americas’ largest shareholder is Ganfeng, a Chinese company with direct ties to the CCP. Ganfeng is currently acquiring lithium mines around the world, which, according to former Secretary Mike Pompeo, is part of a ‘clear intention by the Chinese Communist Party to control the entire supply chain for green energy.’ The United States should be reducing its dependence on China for these critical inputs, not opening the door for China to ‘gain a foothold in America on lithium mining,’ as reported.”

    He adds:

    “The U.S. government should apply strict oversight regarding potential federal funding of CCP-owned or -controlled entities. DOE’s loan for the Thacker Pass mine would be substantial and reportedly cover the majority of the project’s capital costs. As the government continues to invest in battery supply chain programs, it is critical that DOE ensure taxpayer funding does not go to corporations with CCP ties and does not increase U.S. mineral dependence on China.”

    Specifically, the Senator demands that the department use its leverage to “incentivize Lithium Americas to part ways with Ganfeng. Ganfeng and any other Chinese entities with CCP ties should divest their stakes in Lithium Americas before the company is offered this loan.” He further urges the department to reject Lithium Americas’ application for the ATVM if the company refuses to end its Ganfeng relationship.

    Senator Cotton seeks clarification from Secretary Granholm on the following questions:

    1. Is DOE aware of Lithium Americas’ application for the Advanced Technologies Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program and the company’s partial ownership by entities closely tied the CCP?
    2. What safeguards or requirements are in place to ensure the ATVM program is not funding other companies owned or controlled by the CCP or other adversaries?
    3. Does DOE agree that the United States must reduce its dependence on China for critical minerals like lithium and should invest in domestic production of such minerals? If so, does DOE believe that funding deeper CCP control of the U.S. critical mineral supply chain is counterproductive to this goal? If not, why not?
    4. Has DOE raised with Lithium Americas the possibility that its loan application for the Thacker Pass project may be harmed by the company’s partial ownership by Ganfeng or that its application may be improved if Ganfeng divested in the company?

    Senator Cotton closes:

    The United States urgently needs domestic critical mineral production to supply its technology sector and reduce its dependence on China; the United States does not need and should not fund possible attempts by the CCP to deepen its control over the U.S. critical mineral supply chain.”

    It will be interesting to see how the Department of Energy responds, as it was precisely the realization that our nation (and the Western world) is overly-reliant on adversary nations for its critical mineral needs across the entire value chain that led the United States to finally focus on securing its supply chains.

    Whether Chinese influence over this project proves to be definitive or not depends on the facts of the matter, but Senator Cotton’s point that questions of foreign control deserve to be fully investigated before the U.S. Government confers funding seems unarguable. Government programs intended to alleviate worrisome foreign resource dependencies should not unwittingly strengthen those dependencies at the expense of the American taxpayer – and American national security.

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  • Biden Administration Announces Grant Program for Domestic Production and Recycling of EV Battery Components

    Acknowledging the vast material inputs required to power the EV revolution in the context of the push towards net zero carbon — as well as the significant supply chain challenges associated with the sought-after shift — the Biden Administration has announced a $3.1 billion funding program for U.S. companies producing and recycling lithium-ion batteries. According to Secretary [...]
  • Materials Science Profiles of Progress: DoE Funds Carbon Capture Project in Minnesota

    As the global push towards a low carbon energy future intensifies, the mining industry has been taking significant steps towards reducing its carbon footprint. As friends of ARPN will appreciate, the catalyst is the materials science revolution redefining how the world uses scores of metals and minerals for technology applications unknown just a few years [...]
  • Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm Commits to “Soup to Nuts” Strategy, with Critical Minerals Being “Part and Parcel” of Renewable Energy Production

    During last week’s Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on President Joe Biden’s FY 2022 budget request for the Department of Energy, Senators questioned Secretary Jennifer Granholm on the Department’s view on the role of critical minerals in energy production. Watch the archived webcast here. Sec. Granholm stated that critical minerals are “part [...]
  • DoE Chapter of 100-Day Supply Chain Report Calls for Immediate Investment in “Scaling up a Secure, Diversified Supply Chain for High-Capacity Batteries Here at Home”

    The Biden Administration made clear early on that it is committed to pursuing a low-carbon energy future, and battery technology is a key driver underpinning the shift away from fossil fuels. Just a few weeks ago, when touting his infrastructure package at Ford’s electric vehicle plant in Dearborn, President Joe Biden declared: “The future of [...]
  • Amidst Big Policy Shifts, Signs for Continued Emphasis on Securing Critical Mineral Supply Chains at DoE

    Parents of young children will know: Transitions are hard. And what is true for toddlers, is also true for government. Observers of the critical mineral resource realm have been closely monitoring the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. There were early indications that, unlike some other areas, the critical mineral resource realm [...]
  • Russia Pushes for Global Rare Earth Market Share as U.S. Struggles to Move Forward With Critical Minerals Initiatives

    Russia is certainly making headlines this week.  Quite obviously, much of the media attention is focused around President Vladimir Putin’s declaration that Russia has approved a vaccine for the coronavirus (after less than two months of testing) — but developments in the critical minerals realm also warrant attention: A top Russian government official has told [...]
  • ARPN’s Wirtz: “COVID Should Be the Last Warning the U.S. Needs to Bolster Mineral Resource Security”

    ***Posted by Daniel McGroarty*** “The current coronavirus pandemic has exposed significant supply chain challenges associated with our over-reliance on foreign (and especially Chinese) raw materials,” — writes ARPN’s Sandra Wirtz in a new piece for The Economic Standard:   “PPE has become the poster child, but whether it’s smart phone technology, solar panels, electric vehicles, or [...]
  • ARPN Expert Zeroes in on Issues Surrounding Uranium – an “Underappreciated Energy Source”

    In a new series for Capital Research Center, Ned Mamula, member of the ARPN expert panel, adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, and co-author of “Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence,” takes a closer look at Uranium – an “underappreciated energy source.”  In the four-part-part series, Mamula [...]

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