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Ford calls for US mine permitting reform

Says US mining of raw materials is needed for EV revolution Metal Tech News - September 1, 2022

The Inflation Reduction Act offers American car buyers a $7,500 tax credit for buying a new electric vehicle, as long as the ingredients in the battery of that automobile are mostly produced domestically, and none of the critical minerals in the EV comes from "foreign entities of concern" in China and elsewhere. The nearly decade-long process to permit a mine in the United States, however, has automakers concerned that none of the shiny electrified models they put on the showroom floors will be eligible for the full tax incentive offered up by Congress and the White House.

To help ensure American automakers have access to the domestic materials needed to achieve the nation's electric mobility ambitions, Ford Motor Company has petitioned the White House to expedite mine permitting in the United States.

"Today's lengthy, costly and inefficient permitting process makes it difficult for American businesses to invest in the extraction and processing of critical minerals in the United States," Christopher Smith, the chief government affairs officer at Ford, penned in a letter to the U.S. Department of Interior.

EV batteries and motors require cobalt, graphite, lithium, nickel, and rare earths. Currently, the U.S. imports most of these critical minerals and metals from countries like China, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Russia.

Even before the passage of the IRA, American automakers were looking for more reliable supplies of these critical materials that do not come with the environmental and human rights liabilities associated with mined materials from these countries.

"As I've stated before, we currently get our materials for EVs from China, where environmentally responsible mining and processing is non-existent and has caused significant harm to surrounding areas and populations (yet good enough for us to use in EVs, wind turbines and other renewables)," Smith penned in his scathing letter to DOI.

"And still, there's opposition to environmentally responsible mining in the US!" he continued. "I am yet to hear any logical reason behind this other than that which few people have the courage to say openly; 'we don't care if there are environmental issues in China, so long as it's not here'."

Given the long permit lead times in the U.S., however, the ramping up of environmentally responsible domestic mines that would supply the minerals and metals requisite for the EV transition does not match the timeline of the e-mobility ambitions of either American automakers or Washington lawmakers.

Smith called the challenges of mining companies facing the U.S. permitting process, which can take up to a decade to slog through, "unacceptable and well beyond the requirements facing Australian and Canadian companies, where responsible mining is a given and a prerequisite for obtaining mining permits."

Despite having environmental safeguards similar to the U.S., it only takes two to four years to permit a mine in either of these western mining jurisdictions.

Given the vast volumes of battery materials, rare earths, and other critical minerals that go into EVs, Smith said that domestic mining is required to attain the climate goals stated by the White House and being pursued by American automakers.

"If we don't have a domestic supply chain, which includes mining and processing, we simply won't have the raw materials required for the 'green revolution'," the Ford executive wrote.

Ford's letter to the DOI is in response to the department's request for input in relation to the Biden administration's plans to revamp U.S. mining laws.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Interior Department has come under fire for slowing projects that would help provide the U.S. with a domestic supply of minerals and metals critical to the electric vehicles and clean energy transition. More information can be read at Critical minerals war in the White House in the September 2, 2022 edition of North of 60 Mining News, a sister publication to Metal Tech 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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