Exclusive: Behind Biden’s overseas mining funding

The Biden administration is looking to fund roughly a dozen mineral projects overseas in a bid for more resources used in lower-carbon tech, Axios’ Jael Holzman reports.

Why it matters: Support for more mining overseas could ease a raw material squeeze hurting electric vehicles, but it could also give Biden’s foes fodder for rejecting mines at home.

Driving the news: Jose Fernandez, a top State Department official, said in an interview the administration is mulling “around a dozen” projects around the world for potential financing.

  • It’s one way the administration is responding to the rapidly rising demand for EV battery minerals like lithium — an issue that’s raising prices.

How it works: This money may be distributed through the Mineral Security Partnership, a Biden program leveraging international relations to address U.S. mineral supply concerns.

  • It includes Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the U.K. and the European Commission.
  • Part of its work will include projects around the world “potentially receiv[ing] financing from the U.S. and/or other MSP partners,” a State Department spokesperson confirmed.
  • This includes mining, mineral processing and recycling projects.
  • Federal funding will be available via two agencies: the Export-Import Bankand the Development Finance Corporation, which is already funding a nickel mining project in Brazil.

The big picture: Unless something drastic changes, the world would need to mine a lot more to rid itself of fossil fuels.

EVs and solar panels rely on unique metals produced in only a few places. Most of the supply is currently controlled by China.

What they’re saying: Fernandez, under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said the program “is what we believe is the best way to address” the problem that “we’re going to need an exponential amount of rare earths and critical minerals, above what we have today.”

Of note: The partnership is talking with multiple American carmakers and at least two U.S. lithium mining firms, Albemarle and Piedmont Lithium.

The other side: Republicans aren’t huge fans of considering overseas mineral funding when domestic projects face hurdles.

Look for the incoming House GOP majority to scrutinize the program.

Bonus mining note: BHP links arms with Gates-backed startup

Mining giant BHP is taking an equity stake in the startup I-Rox, which is developing tech to provide “high-intensity bursts of energy delivered using pulsed-power technology” to efficiently shatter mineral ores, the companies said, Ben writes.

Driving the news: I-Rox and parent I-Pulse, which counts Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures among its backers, this morning announced a “comprehensive collaboration arrangement” with BHP, which is also taking a stake in I-Pulse.

Why it matters: The announcement says the tech targets “tensile weakness in rocks” and “could substantially reduce the time, energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions currently generated by critical mining activities.”

Πηγή: axios.com

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