President Biden and his administration do not want to mine American owned minerals on public lands. Rather, Biden wants to use American taxpayer funds . The Department of Defense asked Congress to let it fund facilities in these countries that process strategic minerals used to make electric vehicles and weapons. Existing law does not allow Defense Production Act funds from being used to dig new mines, but they can be used for processing equipment, feasibility studies and “upgrades” to existing facilities. Currently, only facilities in the United States and Canada are eligible for that funding. If the Pentagon’s request is approved, the change would be included in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act which the House Armed Services Committee is expected to review later in the year. Evidently, the Department of Defense is worried about where the United States will get the vast amounts of “clean energy transition” minerals and is taking steps to alleviate the looming problem.
The request was made to supposedly reduce America’s dependence on China for lithium, rare earths and other minerals used to make weapons, wind turbines and a range of technologies. Minerals, such as copper, cobalt, nickel, graphite and zinc, are essential for renewable technologies. But, the mining and processing are dominated by China and other hostile nations’ mineral supply chains. In 2021, the United States produced just 6 percent of the global copper supply, 0.4 percent of global cobalt supplies, 0.67 percent of the world’s nickel, 0 percent of global graphite supply and about 5.7 percent of the world’s zinc.
There are numerous cases of the Biden administration blocking critical mineral mine development in the United States and the Obama/Biden administration before that. The Biden administration has revoked federal leases; used regulatory action to delay or revoke mining, air pollution and water quality permits; and labelled a flowering plant endangered as ways to delay or cancel metal mines in the United States. To make Americans believe that he is doing something positive toward mining in the United States, President Biden invoked the Korean War Era Defense Production Act on March 31, 2022, to increase domestic production of minerals used in making electric vehicles, such as nickel, lithium and cobalt. But, Biden’s action did little to increase domestic mining because he did not waive, streamline or suspend existing environmental and labor standards, nor did he address a major hurdle to increased domestic extraction of these critical minerals: the years-long process needed to obtain the necessary federal permits for a new mine. In fact, on April 15 the Department of Interior released a new policy allowing “compensatory mitigation” for anyone using government lands, which basically allows bureaucrats to demand “payola” from those wishing to get a permit for, among other things, mining activities.
UK and Australia Minerals
The United Kingdom is home to many natural mineral deposits, from fossil fuels such as coal, metals such as tin and copper, industrial minerals like china clay, and precious metals such as gold and silver. The United Kingdom refines nickel and has several proposed processing facilities for lithium and rare earths, although energy has gotten so expensive recently in the UK and other parts of Europe as a result of the green energy transition that some facilities have been forced to close.
Australia is one of the world’s leading producers of bauxite (aluminum ore), iron ore, lithium, gold, lead, diamond, rare earth elements, uranium, and zinc, and rare earth elements, a group of 17 metals used to make magnets that turn electricity into motion as well as for other uses. Australia also has processing facilities for a range of minerals, including iron ore, lithium, copper and rare earths.
Department of Defense Grants
The Pentagon last year awarded a grant worth $30.4 million to Australia-based Lynas Rare Earths Ltd to build a processing facility in Texas with privately held Blue Line Corp. However, last month, Lynas Chief Executive Amanda Lacaze complained that those funds have yet to be dispersed, citing ongoing negotiations over protection of her company’s intellectual property. The Pentagon has also granted at least $45 million to MP Materials Corp, which controls the only U.S. rare earths mine but depends on China for processing, and, in fact, is part-owned by Chinese interests. MP recently started receiving the funds and the Pentagon will have “certain rights to technical data” because of the financial support. Both these awards were started under the Trump administration.
Instead of promoting critical mineral development in the United States, the Biden administration is placing roadblocks in the way of developers despite telling the American public that he is doing all he can to develop such an industry. There are numerous examples of mines that have not been able to move forward despite spending a decade trying to do so. Now, the Department of Defense wants Congress to allow American tax dollars to be used for processing facilities outside our borders. Keeping critical mineral mining and processing within the United States would create jobs, revive the mining industry and help to ensure the United States is independent of China and other hostile nations.