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Sen. Sullivan halts Defense nominees

Until he gets answers to critical mineral roadblock in Alaska Metal Tech News - August 3, 2022

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, is holding up the nominations of three senior Department of Defense nominees until he gets some answers on why the Biden administration pulled the permits for a road to the Ambler Mining District, a region of Alaska with deposits of copper, cobalt, zinc, and other minerals critical to the renewable energy and defense technologies.

The Alaska senator made the announcement while questioning two of the nominees – Radha Plumb, nominated to be deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, and Laura Taylor-Kale, nominated to be assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy – during a July 29 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I am going to put a hold on both of your nominations until I get answers from high-level administration officials," he said during the hearing.

In addition to Plumb and Taylor-Kale, Sullivan is holding up the nomination of Brendan Owens, nominated to be assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment. If affirmed, these three nominees would be in charge of the nation's defense industrial base, including the supply of minerals critical to national defense.

"Sick and tired"

During the armed services hearing, Sullivan pointed out the dichotomy between the White House's stated ambitions to establish secure supplies of clean energy materials and blocking the development of a road to a rich domestic source of minerals and metals.

During a Feb. 22 roundtable discussion on critical minerals, President Joe Biden acknowledged the need to bolster domestic supply chains for the materials needed to power clean energy manufacturing and jobs in the U.S.

"These minerals power phones and computers, household appliances, electric vehicles and batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and so much more," he said during opening remarks of the roundtable discussion. "Without these minerals ... they simply can't function."

The President went on to explain that the U.S. is nearly 100% reliant on other countries for many of these critical minerals.

"And when it comes to clean energy, China has spent years cornering the market on many of the materials that power the technologies that we rely on," he said. "That's why I committed us to build a clean energy supply chain stamped 'Made in America.'"

On the same day the President was touting the need for domestic critical mineral production to the American people, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that it had filed a motion to suspend the permits issued to build a road needed to deliver Alaska mined metals into U.S. supply chains.

Sullivan says he is "sick and tired" of the Biden administration's executive actions that are hampering the development of Alaska's abundant resources.

Looking for answers

In March, the Department of Interior officially suspended the previously issued 50-year right-of-way across 25 miles of federal lands, blocking the proposed 211-mile road that would link the Ambler District to Alaska's highway system.

"This decision was a huge setback for our domestic critical mineral supply chains, really undermining our national security," Sullivan said.

The Department of Interior's publicly stated reason for suspending the permit was a lack of adequate evaluation and consultation.

Given the department received more than 36,000 public comments, sent 50 letters to federally recognized tribes, held 30 public hearings, and 30 consultation meetings over a seven-year federal permitting process that began under the Obama administration, Sullivan is not convinced this is the reason for the roadblock.

"I haven't been able to get answers from anybody in the Pentagon or at the Department of the Interior," the Alaska senator penned in a July 29 statement. "Therefore, while I believe these nominees are well qualified, I'm putting a hold on their nominations until I get answers."

Read more about the federal decision to suspend Ambler Road permits at Ambler roadblock defies Biden energy plan in the February 23, 2022 edition of North of 60 Mining News.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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