U.S. Lawmakers Push for Copper to be Added in Critical Minerals List

U.S. lawmakers, led by independent Arizona Senator Sinema, have accelerated efforts for copper to be included in the U.S. critical minerals list. Sinema and other senators from states that produce and manufacture copper sent a letter to Interior Secretary Haaland, urging her to “revisit and reconsider the designation of copper as a critical mineral.” Sinema said in an interview that it “should be a no-brainer”. “We have major gaps in both our ability to mine and process these minerals to ensure our energy security for the future, and the administration knows how important copper is to our domestic and national security.” she added.

The senators’ letter also warns of a copper supply risk driven by economic and geopolitical issues like the war in Ukraine.

“Given the enormous investment required, the time lag for new sources of supply, and projected demand, time is of the essence,” the letter said.

Separately, two House of Representatives members; Democrat Higgins and Republican Latta signed a Feb. 2 letter also calling on Haaland to immediately reconsider adding copper as a critical mineral.

The political push comes on top of lobbying by the Copper Development Association to urge the Biden administration to consider copper critical, joining a list of 50 other minerals already identified as vital by the government. The association’s members include some of the biggest copper producers including Rio Tinto, BHP and Freeport-McMoRan, as well as manufacturers such as Mueller Industries.

The US critical minerals list is updated every three years and includes key battery metals needed for electric vehicle production such as nickel, lithium and zinc. The latest update, in 2022, did not include copper despite the lobbying efforts, though it did add nickel and zinc. The senators are calling on the White House to skip the usual three-year review and add copper to the list as soon as possible.

Some of the world’s largest miners and metals traders have warned that a massive shortfall will emerge for copper, holding back global growth and throwing international climate goals off course given their importance to electrifying economies.

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