It’s not just mining. Refining holds U.S. back on minerals – by James Marshall (E&E News – Greenwire – July 14, 2021)


Republicans are sensing a vulnerability in the White House’s avowed allegiance to renewable energy, questioning whether the Biden administration will embrace mining projects to ramp up the United States’ access to the minerals vital to building electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels.

They have taken aim at a Biden administration decision to delay a land swap that would facilitate copper mining on sacred Apache land and another to postpone orders to open Alaskan land to mineral development (E&E Daily, April 29).

But experts say mining expansion isn’t a silver bullet in the United States’ quest to become competitive with China on critical minerals during the energy transition. Instead, they argue that the key problem the Biden administration must swiftly address is farther up the supply chain: the dearth of U.S. mineral processing plants and refineries.

“Even if we dig up more minerals here, the majority would have to be shipped abroad for processing,” said Abigail Wulf, director of the Center for Critical Minerals Strategy at Securing America’s Energy Future.

Supply chain weaknesses have captured the White House’s attention, with officials saying one of President Biden’s top priorities will be securing domestic access to the full range of minerals needed to make the United States a significant player in manufacturing technologies that can help combat global warming (Greenwire, June 8).

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