U.S. Miners Urge the Government to Streamline Permitting Process

Mining industry executives and investors urge Washington to streamline the mine permitting process in order to make its financial support for producers of battery metals fruitful. Biden last week announced a total of $2.8 billion subsidies to miners developing new U.S. mines of lithium, nickel, copper, and other EV and critical minerals, as well as battery makers and recyclers, following August’s Inflation Reduction Act, which includes EV tax credits for vehicles made with minerals extracted domestically or from free trade partners.

Both measures aim to ramp up domestic mining and bring the country closer to Biden’s goal for half of all new U.S. vehicles to be electric by 2030.

However, mining industry is still concerned that it takes at least a decade to obtain a mining permit, a process that frustrates miners who welcome the financial support but want more transparency in the permitting process. The Biden Administration has opposed permits for several proposed mines.

Mining executives think it will take a long time for the U.S. to catch up with China under the current permitting process.

Democrat Senator Manchin has been trying to push permitting reform through Congress but failed. Still, he is expected to try again later this year.

Mining companies say one of the biggest problems is predictability, as it becomes difficult to receive capital investment when they don’t know if they get a permit in 12 months of five years.

Some projects receiving government funding may have an easier path to permitting than others. Recycling plants, for example, are more akin to manufacturing operations than open-pit mines.

Nth Cycle is building a recycling plant in the US Midwest and expects to produce 5,000 tonnes of nickel annually by 2025. That is about when the only current US nickel mine prepares to close.

Albemarle is hoping that the $149.7 million grant it was granted last week will ease its path to obtain permits to reopen a North Carolina lithium mine.

“Hopefully, they’ll give us some help and fast track some of the permitting process,” Albemarle CEO Masters said.

Still, most of the proposed mining projects are new mines that face pushback, some from Biden himself.

Lithium Americas’ efforts to build the largest U.S. lithium mine are mired in a court battle. Piedmont Lithium, which received $141.7 million from Biden, faces opposition to its North Carolina mining project.

Investors and analysts are concerned that permitting delays may paradoxically keep EV prices high by limiting the domestic supply of minerals needed to reduce battery prices.

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