To get the United States running on clean energy will require a lot of metal: A single electric vehicle battery pack could contain around 8 kilograms of lithium, 14 kilograms of cobalt, and 35 kilograms of nickel. A wind turbine can contain more than 4 tons of copper.
Over the next several decades, global demand for these “critical minerals,” a group that includes lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper, is projected to increase by 400-600 percent driven by a surge in manufacturing of renewable technologies. For some metals like lithium and graphite, it could skyrocket by as much as 4,000 percent.
China dominates this global market, processing 50-70 percent of the world’s lithium and cobalt. But the Biden administration has taken a hard line against providing tax breaks to manufacturers who source metals from countries without free trade agreements with the U.S. That means that developers of technologies like electric vehicles and wind turbines need to find new supply streams – and fast.
But the process of extracting metal and mineral deposits from the earth, known as hardrock mining, has a reputation for contaminating local watersheds and ... Read more