27 Sep 2023
By Greg Reimer
With China’s goal to control one-third of the world’s lithium supplies, America cannot afford to miss a step in ensuring access to home-grown American lithium. As Western nations are banding together to restrict China’s access to the soft, silvery metal, the necessity of acquiring an ample supply of geopolitically stable lithium is crucial to jump-starting America’s green energy revolution.
But while the United States hosts the world’s fourth-largest lithium reserves, it only currently produces about 1% of the world’s supply at one solitary lithium brine mine in Nevada called Silver Peak, run by Albemarle Corp.
Now is the time for governmental authorities to work hand in hand with miners to expedite permitting and ensure that America has access to an ample supply of lithium to play a greater role in the world’s energy shift.
Environmentalists around the world cheered when President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law in August 2022. Clean energy leaders recognized that this was the largest federal investment in alternative energy and sustainability in American history. However, with every giant step forward, there are hiccups along the way.
The Biden administration’s report, issued in September 2023, includes recommendations to help modernize mining regulations. While the sentiment of ensuring stringent protections for the environment is laudable, the reality is that miners in America are already jumping through hurdle after hurdle to ensure that their mining projects rigorously protect the indigenous population, wildlife, and plants. By creating more hurdles for miners which include duplicative steps, we are lengthening the time it takes to bring a new lithium mine online.
Amid the national transition to more renewable sources of energy, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo threw down the gauntlet to make the Silver State the epicenter of US lithium mining and processing with his proclamation that his state will become the “lithium capital of North America.”
Gov. Lombardo is clearly not living in a lithium echo chamber. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology invested $300,000, to conduct detailed geologic mapping in the Thacker Pass area of the McDermitt caldera in northern Nevada, which hosts some of the richest lithium districts in the United States and North America.
The U.S., Canada and other countries are actively disentangling their clean energy supply chains from China and other geopolitically sensitive regions. The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, issued new guidelines regarding foreign investment in the sector, which is key to Canada’s competitiveness in a future low-carbon global economy.
Without the necessary permits at every level of development, lithium mining projects across North America are routed into the ‘slow lane.’ As it typically takes 10-15 years to put a new mine into production, we do not have the time to waste.
The US no longer has the luxury of outsourcing the development and refining of battery metals to China — where up to two-thirds of the world's lithium supplies are refined into battery-grade. This is because we badly need green energy independence in North America at a time when relations with saber-rattling communist China are becoming increasingly strained.
With 400 new battery metals mines needed to meet electric vehicle demand by 2035, with the onus on the United States to ramp up mining of lithium on an expedited timeline.
Government mining agencies carefully weigh the interests of all the stakeholders involved in each mining project. to ensure that environmental rights are respected. So do mining companies. This includes the assurance that no indigenous archaeological sites are damaged or destroyed wherever mining projects are underway. It also involves the protection of lands that some indigenous people consider to be spiritually sacred.
Rather than continue to burn fossil fuels at a record rate or be at the mercy of China and buy electric vehicles with "Made in China" labeling, it’s time for America to fully commit to its goal of energy independence on an expedited timeline. We need more lithium mines tomorrow, not a generation from today.
Greg Reimer is President & CEO at Surge Battery Metals, (TSXV: NILI) (OTC: NILIF) (FRA: DJ5C), a pure-play lithium company focused on a flagship project called Nevada North Lithium Project in Elko County.
Surge Battery Metals | surgebatterymetals.com