American taxpayers are funding critical mineral projects abroad while their government blocks new mines at home. According to new documents from the Department of the Interior made public by the Freedom of Information Act, the Biden administration is actively funding “sustainable lithium extraction” in Argentina.
Federal agencies, according to records obtained by the Functional Government Initiative and shared with The Federalist, “are conducting bi-weekly virtual meetings and trainings with representatives from Argentina’s Ministry of Productive Development the Argentine Geological Mining Service, and the three provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy, and Salta with the goal of creating a regional lithium resource inventory covering all three provinces.”
“This work is funded by the U.S. Department of State,” the document reads.
The Biden administration is shutting down new mining projects on American soil at the same time. In January, the Interior Department took another step to block the Twin Metals project in northern Minnesota. The proposed mine would tap the Duluth Complex within the Superior National Forest, where 95 percent of the nation’s nickel reserves and 88 percent of American cobalt reserves remain underground.
The Biden administration also moved closer to implementing a 20-year ban on mining in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest last month. Three days before the announcement, the Interior Department cut off nearly 16 million acres in Alaska from any sort of resource extraction indefinitely.
While projects from Alaska to Minnesota face setbacks, the administration has taken a different approach to the proposed Thacker Pass mine in Nevada. If approved by federal courts, the $2.2 billion mine 200 miles northeast of Reno would produce enough lithium to build 1.5 million electric vehicles annually for 40 years, according to the company behind the project.
Lithium, a key component for electric vehicles, is forecast to face shortages as soon as two years from now, according to a 2021 report from the International Energy Agency. Meanwhile, President Biden has set a goal of 50 percent of new U.S. car sales to be electric by the end of the decade.
“Given the promising domestic lithium resources in Nevada, North Carolina, California, and other states,” said Debra Struhsacker, a hardrock mining and environmental policy expert, “let’s hope the U.S. State Department is making similar investments to advance and facilitate the development of U.S. lithium mines, where mining will adhere to strict environmental protection and worker health and safety regulations.”
President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act last summer to stimulate American mineral production as demand for critical resources rose with the subsidized acceleration of emissions-free technology. Not only are the critical minerals central to the administration’s wind and solar projects, but they are essential for defense technologies and popular products from cell phones to laptops. While the Cold War-era law was triggered to proliferate American mining operations, the White House considers Canadian mines a “domestic source” eligible for taxpayer support.
“Canada is a preferred partner of the United States with critical mineral resources and expertise that could be leveraged to expand processing capacity and the manufacturing of intermediate and final goods, further strengthening North American supply chains,” read a report from the White House.
Meanwhile, the use of taxpayer dollars to build mining operations overseas reflects a broken domestic permitting process that keeps capital-intense projects in limbo for years, and sometimes decades.