Federal Government, Companies Invest in Domestic Minerals Supply Chain Needed for Solar Panels

Executive Order 14017 (E.O.), America’s Supply Chains, signed one year ago, ordered a review of vulnerabilities in our critical mineral and material supply chains within 100 days. The Biden Harris Administration released a unique supply chain assessment in June that found that we rely too heavily on foreign sources and adversarial countries for critical minerals, and other materials. This presented national and economic security risks.

Biden will meet with state and government partners, industry executives and community representatives, labor leaders, and the California Governor. Gavin Newsom will announce major investments in domestic production key minerals and materials to ensure the community benefits and create good-paying union jobs in sustainable production.

The building blocks of many modern technologies are provided by critical minerals. They are vital for our national security and economic success. These minerals – such as rare earth elements, lithium and cobalt – can be found in products from computers to household appliances. They are also important inputs to clean energy technologies such as batteries, electric vehicles and wind turbines.

As the world transitions to a clean energy economy, global demand for these critical minerals is set to skyrocket by 400-600% over the next several decades, and, for minerals such as lithium and graphite used in electric vehicle (EV) batteries, demand will increase by even more – as much as 4,000%. Many of the processed versions are dependent on foreign suppliers in the U.S. China holds the largest share of the global market for processing and refining cobalt, lithium and rare earths, as well as other critical minerals.

In addition to working with partners and allies to diversify sustainable sources, the reports recommended expanding domestic mining, production, processing and recycling of critical minerals and materials – all with a laser focus on boosting strong labor, environmental and environmental justice, community engagement, and Tribal consultation standards.

President Biden is announcing that the Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program has awarded MP Materials $35 million to separate and process heavy rare earth elements at its facility in Mountain Pass, Calif., establishing a full end-to-end domestic permanent magnet supply chain. MP Materials will announce that it will invest $700 million more and create over 350 jobs in the magnet supply chains by 2024, in conjunction with this announcement of catalytic public funding. China currently controls 87% global permanent magnet markets. These magnets are used in EV motors and defense systems as well as electronics and wind turbines.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables will announce this spring that they will build a new demonstration plant in Imperial County, Calif. to demonstrate the commercial viability and sustainability of their sustainable lithium extraction process using geothermal brine. This is part of a multibillion dollar investment in sustainable lithium production over five years. This will set the company on a path to commercial scale production of lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, if it is successful. Imperial Valley is home to some of the most significant lithium deposits in the country. BHE Renewables facilities could produce up to 90,000 metric tonnes of lithium per annum once they are scaled up.

Redwood Materials and Ford will discuss a pilot program for collecting and recycling end-of-life lithiumion batteries at its Nevada-based facilities to remove lithium, cobalt and nickel. This builds upon Redwood’s recent announcements including a joint venture with Ford to build a recycling facility in Tennessee and its intention to begin construction on a new cathode manufacturing facility in Nevada in 2022.

Secretary Granholm will discuss DOE’s first-of-its-kind $140 million demonstration project funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to recover rare earth elements and critical minerals from coal ash and other mine waste, reducing the need for new mining. This project will build on the Interagency Working Group of Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization’s work by creating high-paying manufacturing jobs in the legacy coal communities.

She will also discuss $3Billion in BIL funding to invest into refining battery materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel, as well as battery recycling facilities. This will create good-paying jobs in clean energy manufacturing.

MP Materials recently announced construction of a rare earth metal, alloy and magnet manufacturing facility in Texas and a long-term supply agreement with General Motors to power the motors in more than a dozen of GM’s EV models. Production will begin next year and have the capacity to produce enough magnets each year to power 500,000 electric motors.

BHE Renewables is not the only company that has established operations in Imperial County to extract lithium out of geothermal brine. Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR), and EnergySource Minerals are also involved. CTR will supply lithium to GM for EV batteries. The companies are also working together with the Lithium Valley Commission (state-authorized Lithium Valley Commission) to develop a royalties structure that would allow them invest the profits of their operations in infrastructure, education investments, and health for the residents of the area.

Tesla intends to source high-grade nickel for EV batteries from Talon Metals’ Tamarack nickel project under development in Minnesota. Talon Metals has partnered with the United Steelworkers to create a workforce development partnership. This partnership will help train workers in the community and in regions of the U.S. in decline in demand. Talon has also agreed to remain neutral in all USW union organizing efforts.

The one-year anniversary for E.O. 14017 this Thursday, the administration has taken action across the federal government to secure reliable and sustainable supplies of critical minerals and materials, while also upholding the administration’s labor, environmental and environmental justice, and equity priorities.

The 150th anniversary of 1872’s Mining Law is this year. This law still governs the mining of most critical minerals on federal public land. The Department of Interior (DOI), has announced the creation of an Interagency Working Group. This group will be responsible for leading an administration effort to legislative and regulatory reform of mine permits and oversight. The IWG published a list of Biden Harris Administration fundamental principles for mining reform that promote responsible mining within strong social, environmental, and labor standards that avoid the historical injustices that many mining operations have left behind. The IWG will present recommendations to Congress by November. They will also host large public input and comment sessions to ensure a inclusive process. In addition, they will work with relevant agencies to initiate updates of mining regulations by end-of-the-calendar year.

The Energy Act of 2020 will require DOI to update its federal list of essential minerals. This list includes minerals that are critical to national security or economic growth and those that are vulnerable to disruption. The administration will direct federal agencies, in accordance with our strong environmental, labor, and social principles, to prioritize the production and process of key minerals required to produce products like batteries, permanent magnets, and semiconductors. This will allow them to focus their efforts on sourcing critical mineral sources. The Department of State, DOD, and DOE signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in order to better coordinate stockpiling activities in support of the U.S. transition from clean energy to meet national security and national security requirements. President Biden signed E.O. in October to streamline the National Defense Stockpile. 14051 to delegate authority to the Under Secretary for Defense for Acquisitions and Sustainment to release strategic and critical materials.