Feds Name California as Key Supplier of Tech Minerals

State and federal officials announced plans Tuesday to establish in California an end-to-end domestic supply chain of rare Earth elements and other minerals essential to modern technology.

Gov. Gavin Newsom joined President Joe Biden as well as executives from the mineral mining and processing industry to announce both public and private investments in the mining of minerals like lithium and cobalt.

Federal officials say the global demand for these so-called critical minerals is expected to spike between 400 and 600 percent in the coming years, because they are essential for clean energy sources like wind turbines, solar panels and the batteries used in electric vehicles.

The federal government awarded roughly $35 million to California mining company MP Materials, which will invest an additional $700 million into creating a domestic supply chain for permanent magnets, which are used in electric vehicle motors, electronics and wind turbines.

MP Materials plans to create more than 350 jobs by 2024 to establish the supply chain through its processing facility in Mountain Pass, California.

“Multibillion-dollar supply chains do not move overnight,” MP Materials CEO James Litinsky said Tuesday during a virtual discussion with Biden and Newsom. “It's going to require capital, it's going to require perseverance... and most importantly, it's going to require a true commitment from leadership across the board.”

Berkshire Hathaway's renewable energy division also announced that it plans to test the viability of a sustainable lithium extraction process at a facility to be built in Imperial County.

According to Berkshire Hathaway, if the process of extracting lithium from geothermal brine is successful, the company could produce battery-grade lithium at a commercial scale within five years.

Biden said the U.S. imports nearly all of its critical minerals from other countries, especially China, Australia and Chile, and a domestic supply chain will be necessary to maintain national economic security.

“These new investments are going to do more than create good-paying jobs,” Biden said. “They're also going to set America up to lead the world in building a clean-energy economy and clean-energy future.”



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