Politics

Biden Looks Abroad For Electric Vehicle Metals, In Blow To U.S. Miners

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U. S. President Joe Biden will rely on ally countries to supply the bulk of the metals needed to build electric vehicles and focus on processing them domestically into battery parts, part of a strategy designed to placate environmentalists, two administration officials with direct knowledge told Reuters.

The plans will be a blow to U. S. miners who had hoped Biden would rely primarily on domestically sourced metals, as his campaign had signaled last autumn, to help fulfill his ambitions for a less carbon-intensive economy.

Rather than focus on permitting more U. S. mines, Biden’s team is more focused on creating jobs that process minerals domestically into electric vehicle (EV) battery parts, according to the people.

Such a plan would help cut U. S. reliance on industry leader China for EV materials while also enticing unions with manufacturing work and, in theory, reduce pandemic-fueled unemployment.

The U. S. Commerce Department is organizing a June conference to attract more EV manufacturing to the country. Biden’s proposed $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan earmarks $174 billion to boost the domestic EV market with tax credits and grants for battery manufacturers, among other incentives. The department declined to comment.

“It’s not that hard to dig a hole. What’s hard is getting that stuff out and getting it to processing facilities. That’s what the U. S. government is focused on,” said one of the sources.

The approach would see the United States rely on Canada, Australia, and Brazil – among others – to produce most of the critical raw materials needed, while it competes for higher-value jobs turning those minerals into computer chips and batteries, according to the two sources.

Securing the full supply chain from metals to batteries does not require the United States to be the primary producer of the raw materials, said one of the sources.

A full strategy will be finalized after a year-long supply chain review involving national security and economic development officials.

Biden officials want to ensure the administration’s EV aspirations are not imperiled as domestic mines face roadblocks, the sources said, both from environmentalists and even some Democrats.

“It rings hollow when I hear everyone use this as a national defense argument, that we have to build new mines to have a greener economy,” said U. S. Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat who has introduced legislation that would permanently block Antofagasta Plc’s (ANTO.L) proposed Twin Metals copper mine in Minnesota.

Ali Zaidi, deputy White House national climate advisor, said the administration was focused on a strategy that “leverages our domestic resources in a way that’s responsible”, noting that included recycling in the supply chain.

While U. S. projects from small and large miners alike will feel the impact, the pain from any blocked projects will fall disproportionately on smaller, U.S.-focused companies. Many large miners also have global projects t… (Read more)

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