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U.S. Secretary of Energy: Critical Mineral Supply Chains Vulnerable to Manipulation or Weaponization

As critical mineral supply chain challenges deepen against the backdrop of a global pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine, and rising resource nationalism in the Southern Hemisphere, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm sounded the alarm during the beginning of the Sydney Energy Forum, an event co-hosted by the Australian Government and the International Energy Agency, with the support of the Business Council of Australia as a Forum partner.

Kicking off talks with Australian resources minister Madeleine King and mining executives from 14 mining companies, Granholm expressed concern that the Biden Administration’s goal to get to net zero carbon, a goal which, as followers of ARPN well know hinges on critical mineral resource development, could be subject to manipulation or even weaponization in the current geopolitical context.

Said Granholm:

“It is no secret that the United States does want to get to net zero. We can’t get there without much of the critical minerals and rare earths that you are extracting.

We have a goal in the United States of being able to do some of this but –in fact, the President has put forward $5 billion for development of processing for particularly battery supply chains. However, as those of you who have been doing processing know, it takes a while to be able to set that up. And we need additional processing capacity throughout the world.

Our concern is that critical minerals could be as subject, or vulnerable, to manipulation as we’ve seen in other areas, or weaponisation. And we want to – I think it’s healthy and from a national security perspective for both of our nations – to diversify our supply chains and make sure that these minerals are available to get to the ultimate goal of net-zero.”

After years of neglect, it is good to see that the issue of strengthening and diversifying supply chains away from adversary nations like China is finally being awarded the attention it deserves in government circles. The Biden Administration is well-advised in partnering with friendly nations like Australia and Canada in its efforts to shore up reliable and sustainable supplies of the metals and minerals underpinning 21st Century technology and the green energy transition. However, as we have previously stated, cooperation with allies must be embedded into a broad-based all-of-the-above context across the entire value chain:

“‘Friend-shoring’” is certainly an important pillar of the “all-of-the-above” concept, but, in light of mounting demand and ever higher stakes with Russia’s war on Ukraine and rising resource nationalism, it is insufficient to alleviate our overall problem.

The good news is that courtesy of the materials science revolution, industry can harness new technologies to do expand our mining infrastructure responsibly and sustainably – (…) and as Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm acknowledged [last] summer during a U.S. Senate hearing: ‘This is the United States. We can mine in a responsible way. And many places are doing it. And there are some places where there are more challenges, but we can do this.’”