The Global Race to Supply Our Future: Mineral Demands, Supply Chain Vulnerabilities and Our Broken Permitting Process

Posted on November 15, 2022 by Minerals Make Life

U.S. mineral supply chain vulnerabilities and broken U.S. mine permitting process were topics of an event hosted by the National Mining Association and CQ Roll Call November 15. The event featured speakers from the Biden administration, industry and academia. All agreed that, for the U.S. to achieve its energy transition goals, we must address the permitting process and secure more domestic mineral supplies to reduce our dependence on imported minerals.

In his opening remarks, Mitch Krebs, President and CEO of Coeur Mining and Chairman of the Board for NMA, said permits for Coeur Mining projects have taken anywhere from six to 17 years but said, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Sameera Fazili, Deputy Assistant to President Biden and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council said President Biden remains supportive of Sen. Manchin’s permitting reform legislation and that electric vehicle adoption won’t be limited by consumer demand but rather by the availability of mineral supplies. Speakers from the event’s panel agreed.

Joe Britton, Executive Director for Zero Emissions Transportation Association (ZETA), explained that, with regards to permitting, “we’re still stuck in 10 years ago.”

Jigar Shah, Director of the Loan Programs Office for the U.S. Department of Energy, agreed an exponential increase in minerals is necessary to meet the energy transition, adding “the processing capacity we need to make the 2030 goals is at least 10x of what we are doing today.”

S&P Market Intelligence’s Director of Pricing and Purchasing, John Anton, said according to their research, to achieve net zero by 2050, the country needs everything in place by 2035. That means infrastructure and supply chains for materials to build the energy and transportation infrastructure. As an example, Anton said we need to double global copper production by 2035; however, according to current estimates, we’ll face a 20% shortfall for the mineral in 2035.

Nick Snowdon, Head of the Industrial Metals Research sector of Goldman Sachs’ Global Commodities Team said the good news is that there is a growing amount of capital waiting to be deployed in the energy transition. According to Snowdon, the biggest issues the West will face are the permitting process and the skilled labor and workforce the industry will need to bring these minerals to market.

National Mining Association President and CEO Rich Nolan concluded the event by highlighting the need for bipartisan support of permitting reforms to get our country’s supply chains back on track. “We’re on the cusp of – or perhaps already even in – a breakthrough moment for reshoring these essential supply chains and doing so at the speed and scale that’s required.”

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