As mining companies seek to supply U.S. infrastructure revitalization, permitting delays slow progress
July 17, 2017
As the administration pushes a $1 trillion national infrastructur...
Congress passed the largest investment in U.S. infrastructure in over 70 years. The bill contains funding for major infrastructure projects from roads and bridges, transit and rail, ports and waterways to the electrification of the transportation system, modernization of the electric grid, and expansion of our nation’s broadband networks.
However, this historic investment in America’s future comes amidst an ongoing supply chain crisis and an exponential increase in demand for minerals and metals needed to power the future. This is coupled with systemic challenges plaguing U.S. mining – permitting delays and ongoing attempts to advance punitive or overly-broad updates to the general mining law that would only disincentivize investments and make the U.S. more reliant on imported minerals and metals.
The U.S. is at a mining crossroads. Mineral demand is soaring, but our policies are lagging. We need to encourage more domestic mining to meet future demand and ensure that the materials required as part of our infrastructure improvements are readily available. Our nation’s transportation electrification goals are a perfect example of the indispensable role minerals play in securing our future. The number of U.S. based battery plants is growing exponentially but the domestically available minerals those operations need for production remains stagnant.
A new study by the Atlantic Council, The Role of Minerals in US Transportation Electrification Goals, shows how the pursuit of deploying electric vehicles (EVs) at scale in the U.S. market will accelerate domestic demand for associated minerals like cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper and rare earth elements – essential for EV batteries, drive train and vehicle components, as well as charging infrastructure.
“As the transport sector in the United States rapidly electrifies, the uncertainty surrounding the capacity of the current supply chain to meet the mineral intensity of an electrified future has led stakeholders across the United States to explore possible hedges or mitigation strategies to limit their exposure.”
Reed Blakemore, Atlantic Council
The report echoes the findings of other major reports from the Wilson Center, Wood Mackenzie, the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA), which outline staggering demand increases that are likely to outplace the available minerals supply. As the IEA warned, this could result in price hikes for commodities, impeding the deployment of advanced energy technologies and related efforts to address climate change.
To address these challenges, the U.S. needs a comprehensive minerals strategy. This means the U.S. must encourage more domestic mining to meet growing demands and secure our nation’s supply chains for minerals and metals using our vast resources under world-leading environmental, safety and labor standards. That will require a more efficient mine permitting process and federal policies that support U.S. mining, not discourage it.
“The Biden administration in particular would be wise to consider carefully how it can embed minerals-minded policies into its strategy for transportation electrification.”
Reed Blakemore, Atlantic Council
It also means we must strengthen our connections with allies around the world to ensure we have reliable sources of minerals and metals available as we invest in modernizing our infrastructure and electrifying our transportation networks and fleets.
The U.S. should be a global leader in minerals mining. Our infrastructure and energy future demands it. But without these changes, we’ll face ongoing supply chain crises and rising costs for essential inputs.