Biden administration invokes cold war powers to boost critical mineral production

March 31, 2022

Lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese will be added to the list of minerals covered by the 1950 Defense Production Act and the Biden administration will invoke Cold War powers to boost domestic production of critical minerals.

The administration announced on March 31 that it will invoke the same authority used by former presidents Donald Trump to spur mask production during the COVID-19 pandemic and Harry Truman to make steel for the Korean War.

This could help mining companies access $750 million under the Defense Production Act’s Title III fund. A senior administration official said industries supported by large-capacity batteries, including transportation and the power sectors, account for more than half of the U.S. carbon emissions.

The United States would need to greatly increase its domestic mining production to begin providing just part of the metals and materials needed for the oncoming wave of electric vehicle production.

Bloomberg News reported that invoking the act provide key funding for existing operations, productivity and safety upgrades, and feasibility studies, but it won’t give the mining industry a tool it’s been clamoring for: an expedited process to dig ore out of the ground. Mining industry groups argue that it takes seven to 10 years to get a mine up and running in the U.S. That’s compared to about two to three years in neighboring Canada, according to the National Mining Association.

Meanwhile, the Senate Energy Committee, whose chairman is West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, convened a hearing Thursday on producing critical materials domestically.

Manchin repeated his view that the reliance on foreign countries for materials needed for electric vehicles is a reason why he wants to give equal treatment to boosting hydrogen vehicles. He has also suggested using the Defense Production Act to accelerate final approval of a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia.

Manchin and Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski have both backed using the act to boost production of these materials in hallway interviews with reporters at the Capitol this week.



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