In another indication that awareness of the acuteness of our nation’s critical mineral woes has gone mainstream in recent months, the Washington Post’s editorial board weighed in with some thoughts on how to curb the risks associated with U.S. over-reliance on Chinese minerals.
In a new opinion piece published last week, editors argue that while the environmental benefits of the United States’ green energy shift stand to be significant, the geopolitical risks are not to be dismissed – particularly as China dominates key segments of the critical minerals supply chain for many of the materials underpinning clean energy technology.
To minimize reliance on China, the editorial board suggests that stakeholders should “keep calm” and work towards mitigating possible supply shocks by strengthening stockpiling and recycling efforts. Marking an important shift in the public discourse, which long been rife with hesitation to embrace increased domestic resource development, the Washington Post editors call for a strengthened commitment to U.S.-based mining and mineral processing to reduce geopolitical risk while also demanding permitting reforms to accelerate and update the permitting “red tape.”
Followers of ARPN well know that the most prudent approach mineral resource security is a comprehensive all-of-the above approach – one that strengthens domestic capacities along all segments of the supply chain while leveraging partnerships with friendly nations. The Washington Post editors agree – arguing that further friend-shoring deals along the lines of those ARPN has regularly discussed on our blog (see for example here, here and here) could “create and coordinate a free flow of critical minerals among like-minded countries.”
The authors further invoke a new Aspen Institute task force report which suggests that clarifying standards for prior consultation with tribal nations could help resolve many concerns surrounding domestic resource development, which is preferrable to relying on countries with poor labor and environmental standards.
As the editorial board states:
“Environmentalists should remember: The question is not whether mining will occur but where. If not under regulated conditions in this country, it could well be in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s leading cobalt source. Though companies there have cleaned up their acts recently, working conditions remain poor, and a significant minority of the substance still comes from artisanal mines, often dug by children.”
We hear a great deal about concerning ourselves with our carbon footprint. Perhaps it’s time to focus on the human rights footprint of the metals and minerals that make our modern world work.