Skip to content

December 12, 2023

“That is Downright Dangerous,” King Says of U.S. Reliance on China for Lithium

Two-thirds of critical mineral is processed in China, boosting the economy of a global foe

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Angus King today continued expressing urgency for streamlining the permitting process, so that renewable energy projects can be built responsibly in support of America’s race against climate change. In a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining, King questioned Dr. Steve Feldgus, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management and Mr. Rich Haddock, about the changes needed in America’s bureaucratic, time-consuming permitting process to achieve the historic clean energy opportunities presented by the landmark Inflation Reduction Act.

Lithium is one of the most commonly used critical minerals in the manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs). Currently, it can take more than a decade to obtain a mining permit for this critical mineral in the United States.

“I'm surprised that hasn't come up today. Isn't that a part of this discussion, to be sure, that because we can't afford 14 years to permit a lithium mine to support the EV industry, 85 percent [in Q4 2022] of the lithium [batteries] we're now using comes from China. That is downright dangerous,” said Senator King.

“We wholly agree that permitting reform is an important aspect of what we need to do to be able to secure our supply chain,” agreed Haddock.

“When a new mine is being permitted, is there any requirement for a cleanup fund to be guaranteed as part of the permitting process? Usually that's often the case in any kind of permitting of a major development,” questioned Senator King.

“There is, Senator, we have bonding requirements. Dr. Feldgus has said that the bonding in Nevada, the bonding in the United States, is the best in the world. We also provide long term funds for long term,” responded Haddock.

“So, the problem of abandoned minds and mines is really for mines that are in the past, not new minds that are going online in the future,” asked Senator King.

“That's correct,” replied Haddock.

“I would appreciate it if you could share with the committee your thoughts on permitting reform in terms of what changes might be required in federal permitting requirements. Obviously, states are all different, but that would be helpful to us if you have suggestions, because there are discussions going on, on this committee about permitting reform that will go over into next year. So that's a bit of homework for you,” concluded Senator King.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator King has advocated for climate solutions that deliver on the clean energy potential of last year’s historic Inflation Reduction Act. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of permitting reform to deliver carefully considered, timely approvals of sorely-needed clean energy projects. In addition to a recent discussion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, he has stressed the importance of streamlining and speeding project timelines while maintaining environmental standards to the Secretaries of Energy and Interior.


Next Article » « Previous Article