President Biden announced several public and private investments on Tuesday aimed at expanding the domestic supply of minerals that are needed to make electric vehicles, computers, solar panels and other products but are currently sourced from overseas.
“We can’t build a future that’s made in America if we ourselves are dependent on China for the materials that power the products of today and tomorrow,” Mr. Biden said at a White House event.
The initiative is part of a White House push to make the United States less dependent on foreign products, given supply chain disruptions that have resulted in shortages of goods, helping to fuel inflation. The investments announced on Tuesday were aimed at boosting domestic supplies of minerals — including lithium, cobalt and rare earths, many of which typically come from China — that are used in a wide array of technologies.
The Pentagon awarded MP Materials, an American mining company, $35 million to expand a rare earths project in Mountain Pass, Calif., with the company expected to invest another $700 million in the supply chain by 2024. The project would establish the first complete supply chain within the United States for permanent magnets, which are used in electric vehicle motors, wind turbines and defense applications, according to a White House statement.
Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables announced plans to break ground this spring on a California facility to test the commercial viability of a process that extracts lithium from geothermal brine. If the test is successful, the company could start commercial production of lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate by 2026.
Redwood Materials said it would discuss a pilot project with Ford Motor and Volvo to extract lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite from retired lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, according to the White House statement.
The Biden administration has warned that a dependence on foreign lithium, cobalt, nickel and other minerals, particularly from China, poses a threat to America’s economy and security. It has promised to expand domestic supplies of semiconductors, batteries and pharmaceuticals, as well as the mining, processing and recycling of critical minerals.
The infrastructure law passed last year contained funding for projects to recover rare earths and other critical minerals from coal ash and mine waste, refine battery materials, and recycle electric vehicle batteries.
Mr. Biden said Tuesday that the United States had to import close to 100 percent of the critical minerals it needed from other countries, particularly China, Australia and Chile. “I was determined to change that, and we’ve seen what happens when we become dependent on other countries for essential goods,” he said.