How US can stop importing vital metals from China and Russia

G. Ivan Maldonado

As the world’s Western powers struggle with the huge scale of minerals and metals needed to ramp up production of clean-energy technologies, they have turned increasingly to resource-rich countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Recently, for example, the Biden administration floated the idea of providing financial assistance to developing countries that want to open new mines and mineral processing facilities.  Under Secretary of State Jose W. Fernandez says the administration is considering financing “around a dozen” mining projects around the world.  The money would be provided by the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Development Finance Corporation, and distributed by the Mineral Security Partnership, a Biden program leveraging international relations to address U.S.  supply concerns.

An open pit at a lithium mine outside La Corne, Quebec, Aug. 30, 2022. The mine, operated by Sayona Mining, an Australian company, illustrates how difficult it is to get lithium out of the ground and break China's dominance in processing the metal for batteries.

Our reliance on imported minerals and metals is at record levels.  One of the primary reasons  is the growing need for raw materials required to build batteries for electric cars and the nation’s electricity transmission system.  A typical electric car requires six times as much minerals and metals as an internal combustion car. An offshore wind turbine requires the input of 1,300 pounds of rare earth minerals plus thousands of pounds of metals. But the United States has just one rare earth mine. Most of our needs for critically important minerals and metals are met by imports.

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