Published on December 30th, 2021 | by Subhash Nair


United States Struggles With Mining Issues Related To EV

Electric Vehicles require loads of rare materials to make, and the US is in 2 minds about how to go forward.

The transition to electric vehicles (EV) is motivated mostly by the need to move away from fossil fuels and the environmental damage caused by internal combustion engines. However, that reasoning has always been flawed, as many components that go into electric vehicles involve rare earth mining and doesn’t quite offset carbon emissions as quickly as many hope. And it’s this conundrum that has now brought the United States’ auto industry’s future into question.

US battery

Many brands have already pledged, or at least made plans, to completely transition to selling EVs. Even the Biden administration has signalled that they intend to push for 50% of all vehicle sales to be electric by 2030. However, it’s doubtful that American car companies will be able to secure the metals required to build enough EVs to keep demand satisfied.

That’s because there’s a lot of opposition against domestic mining from various groups including indigenous communities, ranchers, environmentalists and more. Mining approval for companies like Lithium Americas Corp, Rio Tinto PLC, PolyMet Mining Corp, Piedmont Lithium Inc, Antofagasta PLC and more are being reviewed, revoked, and in some cases blocked by the various arms of the government. Even the US Fish and Wildlife Service has stepped in in at least one circumstance where an ioneer mine was found to be located near a rare flower.

BHPetrol_Euro5 Diesel_2021

What is the solution?

Instead of relying on domestic mining, the United States will probably start to import metals and perhaps even further delay the transition towards electric vehicles. Relying on the country’s allies for EV-related metals will placate local environmental groups but they will have to compete against European and Asian rivals for materials amid a supply crunch, which isn’t great for anybody. What’s more, importing metals will increase greenhouse gas emissions due to shipping and unregulated mining and processing in under-developed nations.

In contrast with China, market sentiment seems to still be split between EVs and ICE-powered vehicles. Perhaps the journey towards a fully electrified car market will end up taking much, much longer than anyone expects. And if petrol prices drop, car buyers will have yet another reason not to consider a new EV purchase.

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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