Biden, Newsom announce $35 million investment in rare-earth mineral mining

President Joe Biden announced a new investment into the domestic production of minerals and materials on Tuesday, a move that the president and industry leaders say will reduce reliance on foreign countries for the production of materials and create more well-paying jobs.

Biden announced a $35 million investment for Mountain Pass Materials on Tuesday, the only rare-earth mining and processing site in the United States. Biden said the funds will help create a “fully domestic supply chain” for the magnets that power technology like wind turbines and electric vehicle motors.

The new multi-million dollar investment announced on Tuesday comes on top of $700 million that Mountain Pass Materials plans to invest by 2024 to create a rare earth supply chain in the U.S.

“These new investments are going to do more than create good paying jobs, they are also going to set America up to lead the world and build a clean energy economy and the clean energy future,” Biden said on Tuesday.

Mountain Pass Materials, which is based in California, was started five years ago and has since become the second-largest producer in the world of rare earth materials, James Litinsky, CEO of Mountain Pass Materials, said during Tuesday’s news conference. The company mines and recovers rare earth elements used to power digital technologies, electric vehicles, clean energy, and even certain military control systems.

The company estimates that through a partnership with General Motors, it will be able to produce enough magnets for 500,000 electric vehicles per year with the materials it recovers at its facility.

Biden noted on Tuesday that investments in these kinds of processes and operations would help the U.S. compete with China, which currently controls most of the global market for these minerals.

“We can’t build a future that’s made in America if we ourselves are dependent on China for the materials, the power [and] the products of today and tomorrow,” Biden said.

The president also highlighted new projects in California’s Imperial Valley by Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables that will test a process to pull lithium from underground sources, which can be used for car and phone batteries.

Alicia Knapp, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables, shared Tuesday that the company has been operating geothermal plants in Imperial Valley for 40 years, 10 of which are currently being operated by bringing superheated brine up to the surface and using steam to create clean power before injecting the brine back into the ground.

Knapp shared that the company plans to launch two demonstration plant projects in the spring to “prove that we can recover that lithium as we have it above ground in a commercially viable manner.” If the projects are successful, Knap said the company would be in position to begin construction on its first commercial plant in 2024 and commercially extract lithium from geothermal brine by 2026.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also joined industry leaders and the president during Tuesday’s briefing, telling officials that he wants to ensure “this extraordinary economic opportunity” does not leave behind communities living in the Imperial Valley. Newsom said he is working alongside organizers to ensure that growth strategies at these plants include local hires from the valley, which he called “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.”

“We think this is big – we don’t want to understate it, we also don’t want to overstate it,” Newsom said Tuesday. “We’re still doing a lot of the due diligence, but if it’s as big as it appears to be, this is a game changer in terms of our efforts to transition to low carbon green growth and radically change the way we produce and consume energy.”

This article was originally posted on Biden, Newsom announce $35 million investment in rare-earth mineral mining

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