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  • As Stakes Mount, U.S. Senators Lament Agencies’ Failure to Meet Timelines for Permitting Report Required by Federal Law

    While there has been a flurry of activity at the federal level to strengthen U.S. critical mineral supply chains against the backdrop of mounting global and domestic pressures, some of the early proponents of mineral resource policy reform on Capitol Hill are questioning the Biden Administration’s commitment to improving the federal mine permitting process “to help meet growing supply constraints and improve U.S. competitiveness in strategic mineral production.”

    In a letter to the Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA), Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan were joined by Idaho Senators James E. Risch and Mike Crapo, as well as North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer, in calling out the agencies for their failure to meet a statutory deadline to produce a report outlining options to improve the federal mineral permitting process within a year of enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law on November 15, 2021.

    Specifically, the Senators point to Section 40206 of the Act, laying out nine specific ways to improve permitting and state that “the nine improvement priorities and the report are the basis of a new performance metric […] to meet the permitting and review process improvements it requires and will serve as the basis of new annual reporting to Congress to accompany the President’s budget.”

    They lament that “DOI and USDA have outwardly paid little attention to [these serious and substantial requirements that represent a first step to address serious deficiencies in the federal permitting process] and internally appear to have devoted critical resources to discretionary projects that trace back to Executive Orders, rather than legally binding federal statutes,” and ask several specific questions.

    See the full letter here.

    The Senators’ letter touches on an important issue.  As ARPN previously outlined:

    “While it is certainly encouraging that these developments are not only underway but are also increasingly making headlines and garnering the attention of the American people, it is important to ensure that legislative efforts to strengthen our nation’s critical mineral supply chains are not only enacted, but actually implemented, and that timelines set forth in enacted legislation are in fact met.” 

    Earlier in May, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a senior member of the committee, raised similar concerns in a series of joint letters to key members of the Biden Administration.

    Federal mine permitting reform is an importance piece of the “all-of-the-above” puzzle.  With geopolitical stakes continuing to mount and the midterm elections slowly fading into the background, here’s hoping that U.S. stakeholders are ready to not only talk the talk on strengthening U.S. critical mineral supply chains, but also walk the walk.

  • Energy Provisions in Inflation Reduction Act Spur Efforts to Build Out U.S. Battery Supply Chain, as States Step Up Their Own Efforts

    The energy provisions in the recently passed congressional Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) are beginning to bear fruit.  Standing to get $35 million in government subsidies for every gigagwatt-hour of cell storage capacity produced, battery suppliers are stepping up their efforts in the United States.

    As the Wall Street Journal reports, Norwegian battery maker Freyr and energy conglomerate Koch Industries Inc., are accelerating plans to build a multibillion dollar battery plant in Coweta County, Georgia, with Freyr’s CEO Tom Einar Jensen citing the IRA as the reason for speeding up the partnership’s timeline.

    Unlike many other projects, which are heavily focused on the EV battery value chain, the Koch Industries/Freyr partnership will supply lithium-Ion batteries primarily for the energy storage market.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, “the first phase of the project in Coweta County, Ga., will bring online 34 gigawatt-hours of annual cell production at a projected cost of $1.7 billion. (…)  A second phase to expand the Georgia plant could increase the cell capacity further and add production of complete energy-storage units or battery inputs such as cathodes or anodes. The total investment is expected to reach $2.6 billion by 2029.”

    The project, which is expected to create more than 720 jobs, is another case in point for states taking on a more active role in securing critical mineral supply chains.

    According to Jensen, the partners decided to locate the project in Coweta County “in part because of an undisclosed financial package the county offered together with the state of Georgia.”  As outlined in the press release issued by Governor Bryan P. Kemp’s office on the project, the state is looking to cultivate a “vertically integrated supply chain that will help companies increase efficiencies by reducing the reliance on imported materials.”

    Earlier this fall, the State of Michigan approved a “more than $200 million grant for Our Next Energy Inc.’s (ONE) planned EV battery factory in Van Buren Township, Michigan.  The company, an EV battery startup spearheaded by a former leader of Apple Inc.’s secretive car project, plans to invest $1.6 billion into the project, which is slated to be fully operational by the end of 2027 and have the capacity make battery cells for about 200,000 EVs annually.”

    Also in October, the State of Louisiana entered into a partnership with Ucore with a significant incentive package to establish a rare earth separation facility in the state.  The package includes $9.6M in tax incentives and payroll rebates over the first ten years of operation.

    Even some cities are getting into the act.  In June, the city of Stillwater, Oklahoma approved a $7 million incentive package for USA Rare Earth’s vertically-integrated rare earth metallization and permanent magnet manufacturing plant, a $100 million investment.  The company recently announced it will partner with Oklahoma State University on materials science initiatives.

    States like Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas have also attracted EV battery makers as automakers scramble to lock down supplies and policy stakeholders work to create frameworks conducive to attracting investment into these critical industries.

    In the coming weeks and months, ARPN will continue to feature more examples of state level public-private cooperation or formalized public private partnerships (PPPs) to sustainably strengthen domestic critical mineral supply chains.

  • Specter of Cartelization in “Battery Criticals” Segment Should Kick Efforts to Bolster Domestic Supply Chains into High Gear — A Look at Nickel

    As global leaders direct their focus towards the COP27 climate change summit kicking off in Sharm El Sheikh this upcoming Sunday, pressures on critical mineral supply chains – particularly those for the “battery criticals”underpinning EV battery and energy storage technology — continue to mount. While for some time, much of the “battery critical” focus was primarily on lithium, [...]
  • A Frightening Graphic Just in Time for Halloween: Is the Anode Our Achilles Heel When it Comes to Building out a Battery Supply Chain Independent of China?

    It’s Halloween – time for trick or treating, spooky storytelling and scary visuals.  Here’s a real scary one if you’re still looking to frighten the policy wonks among your Halloween party guests. Courtesy of our friends at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, it’s an infographic that should send a serious chill down policy makers’ spines, and it’s not even gory: While [...]
  • President Xi Jinping’s “Coronation” Adds Fuel to the Fire to Decouple Critical Mineral Supply Chains from China

    With pressures rising on critical mineral supply chains as nations rush to flesh out environmental initiatives before the COP27 climate change summit kicks off in Sharm El Sheikh next month, the stakes for the United States and its allies to “decouple” from adversary nations — in the new U.S. National Security Strategy, read:  China — may have gotten even [...]
  • As Clean Energy Adoption Reaches “Tipping Point,” the Challenge of Untangling Critical Mineral Supply Chains Looms Larger than Ever

    “Solar power, electric cars, grid-scale batteries, heat pumps—the world is crossing into a mass-adoption moment for green technologies,” writes Tom Randall for Bloomberg.  Citing Bloomberg research, he argues that “clean energy has a tipping point, and 87 countries have reached it.”  The mass-adoption of green technologies, as followers of ARPN well know, requires drastically increased amounts of critical [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • State-Level Public-Private Cooperation to Bolster Critical Mineral Supply Chains: A Look at Michigan

    At ARPN, we have long been spotlighting federal policy initiatives to bolster our critical mineral supply chains. Meanwhile, often considered policy laboratories, the individual states are also not sitting idly by, and it’s time to feature some of their efforts. With the EV revolution fueling much of the skyrocketing demand for the “battery criticals” lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel [...]
  • 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 [...]
  • Alaska Critical Minerals Conference: Stakeholders Welcome Progress Thus Far, Call for Federal Permitting Reform and More Predictability in the Mining Space

    Just as a new federal law – the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 – may send a much-needed investment signal to the underdeveloped critical mineral supply chains for EVs and other 21st  century technologies, many of which are rife with underinvestment, political risk and poor governance – lawmakers and policy experts gathered for a two-day two-day conference hosted by the [...]