Barrasso: It’s Time to Get Serious About Expanding U.S. Mineral Production

April 7, 2022

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered remarks at a full committee hearing to discuss the scope and scale of critical mineral demand and recycling of critical minerals. 

The hearing featured testimony from Mr. David Howell, acting director and principal deputy director of the Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains and director of the Vehicle Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy; Mr. Joe Britton, executive director at Zero Emission Transportation Association; Mr. R. Scott Forney III, president of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems; Mr. J.B. Straubel, founder and CEO of Redwood Materials; and Dr. Duncan Robert Wood, vice president of Strategy & New Initiatives at the Wilson Center.    

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks for holding today’s very important hearing. 

“Last week, this committee held a hearing on the supply of critical minerals. 

“We discussed how President Biden’s decision to cancel leases and delay permits for critical minerals is putting his own climate goals at risk. 

“His decisions are also putting America’s energy and national security at risk. 

“Today, we’re going to discuss the industries that are driving demand for critical minerals. 

“When President Biden took office, he committed the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement. 

“When doing so, he announced sharp greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. 

“To accomplish these goals, the president wants to increase by vast amounts: the number of electric vehicles on the road and the number of wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels used to generate electricity. 

“Whether you agree or disagree with the president’s goals, there is no dispute that they will dramatically increase the demand for critical minerals.

“Last year, the International Energy Agency published a report on the future demand for critical minerals. 

“It projects that by 2040: the demand for rare earth minerals will increase by 700 percent; the demand for nickel will increase by 1,900 percent; the demand for cobalt will increase by 2,100 percent; the demand for graphite will increase by 2,500 percent; and the demand for lithium will increase by 4,200 percent. 

“The International Energy Agency isn’t alone.

“The World Bank recently looked at the future demand for copper.

“It found that to meet the world’s demand for copper in the next 25 years, the world will have to mine the same amount of copper that has been mined in the last 5,000 years. 

“These are astonishing figures that neither President Biden nor those within his administration are willing to face head on. 

“So where exactly will this growth in demand for critical minerals come from? 

“According to the International Energy Agency, most of it will come from: manufacturers of solar and wind turbines; manufacturers of electric vehicle batteries and batteries to store wind and solar energy; and manufacturers of electric transmission and distribution components.

“Another important question to ask is: What does this growth in demand for these critical minerals mean for existing users of critical minerals? 

“For example, today, the defense sector is a key source of mineral demand. 

“According to the National Mining Association, the Department of Defense uses nearly 750,000 tons of minerals each year. 

“These minerals are absolutely essential to our national security and the security of our allies.  

“For that reason, I’m grateful to Scott Forney, president of General Atomics – Electromagnetic Systems, for his willingness to testify here today. 

“General Atomics has partnered with the Bear Lodge Rare Earth Mine project, located in northeast Wyoming. 

“Once operational, the mine and processing plant will be an alternative to Chinese rare earths. 

“For our national and economic security, we cannot afford to rely on countries such as Russia and China for our mineral mining and processing needs. 

“Cutting China and Russia out of global mineral supply chains won’t be easy. 

“Russia’s state-run nickel company produces nearly 20% of the world’s high-grade, battery quality nickel supply. 

“China controls over 90% of the global rare earth element market, including refining and processing. 

“It is clearly time for us to get serious about expanding domestic mineral production. 

“I look forward to discussing these topics with our witnesses here today.”