Last month, Team Biden placed about 225,000 acres (about 350 square miles) in northern Minnesota off-limits to mining and mineral development.
The announcement specifically noted that the administration was: “[R]esponding to concerns regarding the potential impacts of mining on the area’s watershed, fish and wildlife, tribal and treaty rights, and robust recreation economy … This action will help protect the Rainy River watershed … from the potential adverse impacts of new mineral and geothermal exploration and development.”
That all seems about par for the course. Environmentalists complain about the possibility of mining, and their stooges in the administration comply and prevent mining in a certain area.
Here’s the problem. This area in northern Minnesota is home to some of the most impressive mineral deposits in North America. Rep. Pete Stauber, Minnesota Republican offered these thoughts in response: “[President] Biden banned mining in 225,000 acres of Minnesota’s Iron Range and locked up development of taconite, copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum-group elements, and more.”
“Not even one month ago, Mr. Biden signed an agreement to fund mining projects in Chinese-owned mines in the Congo, where over 40,000 children work as slaves in forced labor and inhumane conditions with no environmental protections.
“America needs to develop our vast mineral wealth, right here at home, with high-wage, union jobs instead of continuing to send American taxpayer dollars to countries like the Congo that use child slave labor. The only winner here is China, as Joe Biden continues to hand our foreign adversaries every advantage possible.”
Mr. Stauber has a point. If Team Biden is truly serious about attaining their goal of net zero by 2050, they have only two choices with respect to mining the minerals — like cobalt, nickel, copper, and rare earths — that will be necessary for the energy transition they claim they want. They will need to start permitting mines here in the U.S. or get used to relying on our adversaries in communist China for those minerals.
At the moment, communist China own, controls, or processes more than 70% of the cobalt and rare earth minerals that go into batteries for electric vehicles or batteries used for utility-scale storage. China is also the third-largest producer of lithium and makes about half of all the lithium batteries in the world. Korea makes most of the rest.
In short, if you own an electric vehicle, the odds are pretty good that your EV started its journey at a mine using child labor in the Congo or at a slave labor camp in China.
This problem is liable to get worse. In May 2021, the International Energy Agency produced a report on mining and the energy transition. It concluded that demand for key minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metals would skyrocket, rising by 4,200%, 2,500%, 1,900% and 700%, respectively, by 2040.
The IEA also noted that there are, at the moment, no plans to fund and build the necessary mines and refineries. The supply of the needed minerals is entirely notional, and increasing production will take time. The IEA dryly noted that: “It has taken on average over 16 years to move mining projects from discovery to first production.”
The options for Team Biden are clear: Abandon the energy transition to which they claim to be committed; anger their environmentalist donors and activists and permit American mines; or continue to rely on the slaving and genocidal communist regime in China.
To us, the answer seems obvious. It’s time to abandon the expensive and pointless chase of net zero. But if the Biden administration can’t or won’t give up on that, they should at least recognize that relying on communists in China for our energy is incredibly reckless.
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