April 10, 2021 2:49 PM

Mining: the eternal debate in North America

Biden is really not against the idea of allowing the opening of mines on federal territory. However, the administration would prefer to authorize only those operations that will meet America's ongoing battery needs for the growing fleet of electric vehicles. Thus, we will likely see approval for rare earth and lithium mines. Copper mine projects, however, will have to undergo additional reviews.

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With the new Joe Biden administration entering, the development of mining activity and its environmental consequences is a subject that cycles constantly through the American and Canadian mining news.

While Mr. Biden had promised environmentalists to set aside at least 30% of federal lands and coastal areas for conservation, the new president is accountable for two other equally crucial promises: electrify vehicles and reduce the nation’s dependence on China. Americans are aware that mining is an inevitable step to get the resources to adopt renewable energy on a larger scale.

However, the U.S. president wants to accelerate the electrification of vehicles while reducing, or even eliminating, its dependence on Chinese mining. So he does not want to base his energy transition project on any dependence on the Chinese.

Indeed, China has been able to create considerable hegemony around the exploitation of rare earth, lithium, and other minerals needed for EV batteries. Biden believes it is time to revive U.S. mining to break the deadlock, even if it means breaking a presidential promise.

Mining: Will Biden give carte blanche to dig everywhere? Maybe not.

According to various sources, the new American president is really not against the idea of authorizing the opening of new mines on federal territory. That said, he would like to authorize only those operations that will meet U.S. needs for vehicle electrification. Rare earth and lithium mines will probably be approved. For their part, copper mining projects will have to undergo additional reviews – such as the proposed Rio Tinto Pic copper mine in Arizona, which is at the heart of a controversy led by Native Americans.

Nature and justice prove environmentalists right

Since September 2020, the arid hills of northern Nevada have been the focus of a high-profile environmental controversy. The story of the rare bunch of flowers, which died overnight, is fuelling the debate on the need to rethink mining in the United States. In this case, environmentalists blame an Australian mining company for the disappearance of its flowers (known as Tiehm’s buckwheat). Ioneer Ltc extracts lithium for electric vehicle batteries at the foot of its ultra-rare flowers, Coincidence? Hard to prove. In any case, the lawsuit is well on its way to a recognition of the plant as an endangered species, which makes the fate of the lithium mine uncertain.

The replacement of gasoline-powered vehicles, the hot file on Joe Biden’s desk.

While Biden has promised to launch a campaign to convert the entire government fleet (640,000 vehicles) to electric vehicles, it is clear that the United States needs more lithium production to achieve even that first goal. Clearly, the new U.S. president will have to stand up to environmental groups and give the green light to projects that can provide sufficient lithium to Americans. The proposed mines, by BHP Group Ltd, Rio Tinto Ltd, or Lithium Americas Corp, must cover the American needs for the creation of electric vehicle batteries, i.e. 5 million batteries.

Biden mixed, Canada on the lookout for a new mining opportunity

Joe Biden finds himself in an avalanche, as he has spoken out on many controversial issues even before he became president. He had made promises – particularly to the Native Americans – of change in Donald Trump’s “anti-environmentalist” policies. So will he be able to honor the dedication expressed by different communities during the presidential battle? Should he withdraw, would this be an opportunity for Canada to position itself even better in the global race for black gold alternatives?

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(Featured image by Kelly Lacy via Pexels)

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