President Biden announces fresh plans to develop domestic mineral processing capabilities

US President Joe Biden yesterday announced a spate of new investments in the downstream production of minerals and materials vital in the manufacturing of products associated with the global energy transition.

The move is part of Biden’s plans to create a vertically integrated technology supply chain in the US that would significantly reduce the country’s reliance on imports of processed minerals, such as rare earths and lithium.

“China controls most of the global market of these minerals and the fact [is] that 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,” the President said at a White House event.

Biden announced a US$35 million grant from the U.S. Defense Department to MP Materials to process rare earths at the Nevada-based company’s Mountain Pass facility in California. MP owns the only rare earths mine in the US, but depends on China for processing.

MP’s chief executive Jim Litinsky told Biden that the federal grant, along with its own $700 million investment, will help the company produce enough rare earth products to build 500,000 electric vehicles domestically by 2025.

Also at the event, Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables said it will break ground this spring on a facility to test sustainable ways to produce lithium from geothermal brines found underneath California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere.

The administration was also expected to announce $140 million in funding from a bipartisan infrastructure law to recover rare minerals from coal ash and other mine waste. The infrastructure law also directs $3 billion in funding for refining lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite, and battery recycling facilities, according to the White House.