The Biden administration has said it is activating all the levers of government to advance environmental justice for people of color. However, one of President Joe Biden’s own policies for climate action might challenge his commitment to racial equity.
Earlier this month, Biden invoked a wartime law to free up federal funds for domestic mining activities for five metals sought by manufacturers of zero-carbon energy products: lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite and manganese. It was a move that, if successful, could help open mines across the country to support the production of electric vehicles and other technologies that are needed to reduce the country’s use of fossil fuels.
But these zero-carbon products aren’t always clean to Native Americans who live near the mining projects. Finance company MSCI estimates the majority of U.S. reserves for cobalt, lithium and nickel are located within 35 miles of Native American reservations.
Some Indigenous activists are concerned that the Biden administration is encouraging a mining boom that could upend their way of life by degrading sacred sites and potentially threatening groundwater drinking sources.
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