Crucial for combating global warming
A newer argument put out by supporters of the mine is that the minerals it will collect are crucial for combating global warming.
Julie Padilla of Twin Metals estimates that we will need to raise the output of minerals like graphite, lithium, and cobalt by about 500 percent by 2050 to keep up with the rising demand for renewable energy. Climate-change technology such as solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicle batteries are among those that experts predict will be required to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
Minerals are a need, but they’re also at odds with the realities of the world. In the United States, many mining proposals are met with significant resistance by residents.
Nowhere is this more clear than in northern Minnesota, where the Biden administration this week canceled two federal mining licenses owned by Twin Metals right on the border of the Boundary Waters.
For environmentalists and local businesses, it was a big triumph. But it also shows how difficult it may be to build up a local supply of the minerals required to convert to a green economy.
Developing a domestic supply chain for these minerals has become more critical in light of predictions of looming severe shortages. Some manufacturers are even putting their money into mines.
In the case of Talon Metals, a prospective nickel mine in the small town of Tamarack, roughly an hour west of Duluth, Tesla just signed a supply agreement.
Local supply chain for batteries
As part of the Battery Materials and Technology Coalition, a consortium of miners and other firms, Talon is advocating for developing a local supply chain for batteries, from mining through mineral processing and production.
According to coalition spokeswoman Ben Steinberg, the supply chain is now mainly under the authority of China. Our allegiance to any one nation is untenable. It would be disastrous for the United States if that were ever cut off.
All across the globe, people mine the metals now used in batteries, such as nickel, cobalt, and lithium. The overwhelming bulk of them is manufactured in China. After that, they’re sent all around the world through the sea. As Steinberg points out, this is both expensive and harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Now that local mineral supply chains are being refocused on, Lee says the United States hasn’t dealt with its environmental legacies as effectively as it might have done before.
In the case of Minnesota’s canoe country, that’s why mines are typically met with massive protests, like what’s going on now. Locals in North Carolina and Nevada, for example, are voicing their opposition to the construction of lithium mining.
Opposing groups raising doubts
Groups opposed to the Twin Metals project in northern Minnesota have raised doubt about the project’s contribution to the renewable energy supply chain.
According to Becky Rom, national chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, the metal concentrates produced by Twin Metals would be transferred overseas for processing, most likely to China, and then sold on the international market. She argues that friends like Australia and Canada, who have significantly higher mineral deposits, would be a definitive source for the nation’s resources.
President Padilla, the head of Twin Metal’s regulatory department, admitted that the United States had no nickel smelters and minimal copper processing capability. Despite identifying potential processing capacity in Mexico and Canada, she said the corporation couldn’t tell where it would take place at this point.
Padilla said that the Biden administration was “talking out of both sides of its mouth,” stating it wanted to boost local nickel processing while revoking leases for a mine that would produce nickel. According to her, mining ventures throughout the nation face similar difficulties.