The Biden administration’s ambition to increase the number of electric vehicles sold in the United States to more than 50% by 2031 seems to depend on supply networks located outside of the United States. To increase EV fleets, overhauling the supply chain is crucial.
America has been encouraging manufacturing outsourcing for two decades. Material needs for large-scale batteries have been neglected as a consequence. Biden and the previous administration were aware that these batteries are critical for EVs, stationary power storage, and a wide range of military applications even while they were still on the campaign trail.
Many minerals required for large-scale electric vehicle batteries are not easily accessible domestically in the needed numbers. This is one of the challenges of producing large-scale EV batteries. A lack of adequate deposits in the United States is by no means a problem. The Great Salt Lake in Utah, for example, has the eleventh-largest magnesite resource in the world, with a high concentration.
These mines were formerly unattractive to produce in the United States because of poor commodity pricing and environmental damage. Foreign sourcing seemed like a no-brainer because of the cheap labor prices and permissive regulatory environment in China and India.
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Nearly 90% of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Congo. Magnesium production is concentrated in China, North Korea, and Russia. However, as the public has become more aware, the supply chains necessary to obtain them have come under growing scrutiny.
Cobalt’s artisanal mining operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where child labor and unsafe working conditions are prevalent, the extraction history of other minerals used in batteries is just as bleak.
The most significant punishment ever imposed in Russia for environmental contamination was levied against one of the world’s largest nickel mines in Norilsk, Russia. Protesters also accuse it of failing to uphold indigenous people’s rights. Indonesia and the Philippines are two of the world’s largest nickel producers, both of which have a history of questionable environmental practices. The world’s biggest lithium producer, Chile’s mining industry workers are now engaged in a labor dispute over anti-union measures and salary disparities.
There is a growing need for improved EV solutions from the government and the commercial sector.
You may begin by developing your supply of these minerals at home.
Consider the lithium-ion batteries that power today’s electric vehicles. The United States holds around 4% of the world’s lithium deposits, although there is presently just one lithium mine in the country, in Nevada.
For technological businesses in the United States and Asia, lithium supply security has become a significant issue,” stated the US Geological Service in an examination of the lithium industry.
However, the extraction required to acquire the domestic supply remains a challenge because of the environmental devastation often connected with mining projects.
As an example, there are two further planned mines in the Nevada region, although both are now experiencing environmental and socioeconomic issues. The licensing process for Nevada’s first mine has been put on hold because of worries over the planned site’s proximity to an endangered flower species. The Paiute tribe, which has a sacred burial place on the Oregon-Nevada border, is now camping on the property to oppose the construction of mines on the land.
People have legitimate worries about this mining, so these challenges are essential. Despite this, it has not been easy to bring manufacturing back to life.
There is a rising demand for EV batteries and the need to source them responsibly while checking price. Both Trump and Biden governments have realized that a robust domestic supply chain is necessary, regardless of political ideology. To this end, the Biden administration also recognizes the relevance of these same minerals for electric vehicle batteries and other energy transition technologies.
More than $7 billion will be invested in the battery supply chain as part of Biden’s Build Back Better proposal. Investments in the mining of these essential minerals are included. It would entail obtaining the resources needed to manufacture and recycle these same vital minerals to reduce the need for more mining. In addition, there have been several small-scale initiatives to recycle batteries.
An R&D center founded in 2017 by the Department of Energy intends to “develop solutions to economically capture 90% of all lithium-based battery technologies in the United States and recover 90% of the critical elements” from the batteries. Meanwhile, firms like Tesla are turning to nations like Australia and Indonesia as options for battery materials, claiming they are willing to collaborate with any company, provided that the resources are supplied responsibly.
Both domestically and globally, it’s a delicate juggling act that will only grow in importance. Achieving our aim while addressing these environmental problems in a meaningful manner will be the most crucial part of this process.