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U.S. Senators to President Biden: With Stakes Raised, Time to Invoke the Defense Production Act to Secure Critical Mineral Supply Chains

Already severely strained by the coronavirus pandemic, global critical mineral resource supply chains have taken another hit with Russia’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine.  With no de-escalation of hostilities in sight, Western nations, including the United States, are stepping up their efforts to bolster domestic supply chains, not only for oil and gas, but also for non-fuel minerals, and particularly for the materials underpinning the green energy transition.

While the Biden Administration last month announced several “major investments in domestic production of key critical minerals and materials, ensuring these resources benefit the community, and creating good-paying, union jobs in sustainable production,” President Joe Biden missed an opportunity to convey the urgency of the critical minerals supply challenge with the American people during his first State of the Union Address.

With the stakes raised significantly since the Biden Administration’s investment announcement in February in light of the war on Ukraine, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), James Risch (R-ID), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), sent a letter to President Biden today urging the him to take congressional and Administration efforts to bolster mineral supply chains one step further and to “invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic production of lithium-ion battery materials, in particular graphite, manganese, cobalt, nickel, and lithium.”

Write the Senators:

“China not only leads the world in manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, but also in the processing of the minerals and raw materials required in lithium-ion battery manufacturing. The United States’ import reliance on graphite and manganese, essential to the lithium-ion batteries required for commercial technology sector like electric vehicles and energy storage systems, is also a hindrance for major weapons platforms and defense capabilities, from UAVs and space defense systems to our warfighters in the field.”

They add:

“Our dependence on foreign sourced cobalt and lithium is elevated as the processing of both is dominated by China. China is clearly willing to utilize any means at hand – such as exploiting its workforce through harsh labor conditions, using mining processes outside of international practice, espionage, and IP theft – to establish technological dominance over the United States.”

Arguing that China dominating the processing segment of both the cobalt and lithium supply chains, and is willing to utilize “any means at hand (…)” to “establish technological dominance over the United States,” they conclude:

“Allowing our foreign mineral dependence to persist is a growing threat to U.S. national security, and we need to take every step to address it. The 100-day report acknowledges the ‘powerful tool’ the DPA has been to expand production of supplies needed to combat COVID-19, as well as the potential the DPA could have to ‘support investment in other critical sectors and enable industry and government to collaborate more effectively.’  The time is now to grow, support, and encourage investment in the domestic production of graphite, manganese, cobalt, lithium, nickel, and other critical minerals to ensure we support our national security, and to fulfill our need for lithium-ion batteries – both for consumers and for the Department of Defense.”

Read the full letter here.