Brendan McLaughlin, bmclaughlin@earthworksaction.
Today President Biden announced his plan to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to secure a reliable supply chain for a handful of minerals used in batteries that power electric vehicles and other clean energy infrastructure. The order calls for three pathways to securing these minerals: (1) recycling/reuse of old batteries, (2) re-mining waste from existing mines, and (3) supporting existing or newly permitted mines.
Research shows that circular minerals solutions such as recycling can significantly reduce demand. By prioritizing mineral recycling, reuse, and substitution while promoting demand reduction, the country and the world can move away from extraction reliance. The European Union has introduced legislation requiring recycled content, mandatory takeback, and circular economy policies for EV batteries, which the US can and should use as the foundation for its own circular economy infrastructure.
Meanwhile, current federal mining law (the 1872 Mining Law) fails to provide even basic protections for our shared public lands and the communities that call those lands home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 40% of the headwaters of western watersheds have been polluted by mining. The Biden administration has said repeatedly that we must reform federal mining laws. Today an interagency working group (convened to reform hardrock mining laws, regulations, and permitting policies in the United States) opened a public comment period and consultation process.
You can find quotes from members of frontline communities impacted by lithium mining in the southwest here.
Quote from Lauren Pagel, Earthworks Policy Director:
“We absolutely must move quickly away from fossil fuels, and doing so means getting serious about responsible sourcing of clean energy minerals. The clean energy transition cannot be built on dirty mining. Earthworks strongly opposes the employment of the Defense Production Act to bolster mining because it adds to the generational trauma experienced by mining affected communities, particularly Indigenous communities.
“Fortunately, there are better ways to meet our growing mineral demand than hardrock mining. The government should use its purchasing power to maximize reuse of recycled content and build a circular materials economy. Expanding mining without addressing the shortcomings of our archaic mining laws would be disastrous. More than a century of reckless mining has poisoned the air, water, and land of too many communities. The administration must complete its own mining reform process to ensure protections for our shared public lands and the communities that call those lands home. ”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Interior Department Launches Interagency Working Group on Mining Reform
- FACT SHEET: Securing a Made in America Supply Chain for Critical Minerals
- Just Minerals for a Just Transition
- MSCI Report: Mining Energy-Transition Metals: National Aims, Local Conflicts
Declaration on Mining and the Energy Transition signed by 175 organizations