To win the war on global warming and triumph in an economic showdown with China, President Joe Biden needs an essential weapon — lithium. But before he can count on vast U.S. reserves of the critical metal, he has to win multiple smaller fights on his home turf.
In Nevada, conservationists and Indigenous activists are camped at the site of a proposed open-pit lithium mine as the project is challenged in court. A rare wildflower has a second mine in the state at a standstill. Maine’s mining laws, some of the strictest in the nation, will make it nearly impossible to extract lithium from a large deposit there without changes by the legislature.
And the future of a lithium mine in rural North Carolina is in the hands of a seven-member county board with power over zoning. Weaning the economy off fossil fuels comes at its own environmental cost, a truth that is just now dawning on many Americans, especially those living near valuable mineral deposits.
The transition will require mining massive quantities of metals and minerals, a practice that carries its own pollution, said Jordy Lee, a program manager at the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines.
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