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US needs to take urgent steps to prevent getting ‘shut out’ from critical minerals, says researcher  

The MP Materials mine, formerly Molycorp Minerals, in Mountain Pass, CA. Credit: Summerlin540 | Flickr

The United States needs to smooth out its mine permitting processes, conduct more geological surveys and make the most of its mining relationship with Canada, if it wants to contend with a competitive critical minerals market, researcher Duncan Wood said at The Northern Miner’s quarterly Global Mining Symposium in late May. 

The vice-president for strategy and new initiatives at the Wilson Center, a non-partisan policy forum that tackles global issues through research, said there “simply isn’t enough critical minerals” being mined in the world today and that the United States needs to take urgent action to prevent being “shut out” from the supplies needed for energy transition.  

“It’s a dramatic… a very serious situation,” Wood told delegates at the virtual event. “One very simple thing that we need to do a heck of a lot more is geological surveys here in the United States… Whilst what’s happening right now is really encouraging, it’s horribly insufficient.”  

The demand for battery metals has increased globally as the world looks to meet its decarbonization goals by 2050. According to the World Bank, the supply of critical minerals needed for the energy transition is “more concentrated” compared with fossil fuels. The bank estimates half of the world’s battery metals to be concentrated in about three countries. 

In March, U.S. President Joe Biden authorized the Defense Production Act to increase battery metals production and reduce the country’s reliance on China and Russia.