Rich Nolan is president and chief executive officer of the National Mining Association.
TESLA’s announcement of a new, 2,100-acre gigafactory in Texas has rightly generated a great deal of excitement. In this time of economic crisis, news of 5,000 new jobs assembling the world’s most celebrated electric vehicle is an important step toward strengthening domestic manufacturing.
In fact, the move has prompted Elon Musk and others to look further up the supply chain—to the raw materials that will make the production of these vehicles possible.
On a call last month, Musk highlighted his concerns about the front end of the supply chain: “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way.”
However, there is currently just one nickel mine in the United States and, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, America’s over-reliance on imports has become a self-imposed Achilles’ heel.
Not only has the United States become overly reliant on imports of essential goods, we’ve also become alarmingly dependent on geopolitical rivals.