1 of 5 | President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced $35 million in new investments supporting U.S. production of minerals to reduce reliance on foreign materials and boost the nation's supply chain. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 22 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced new investments supporting U.S. production of minerals that he said will reduce reliance on foreign materials and boost the nation's supply chain.
During a roundtable with officials and experts including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, national climate adviser Gina McCarthy, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Biden announced $35 million in funding awards to Nevada-based mining company MP Materials to separate and process heavy rare earth elements in California.
"Today we're announcing a major investment in domestic production of key minerals and materials," the president said. "China controls most of the global market of these minerals and the fact is that we can't build a future that's made in America if we ourselves are dependent on China for the materials that power the products of today and tomorrow.
"And this is not anti-China or anti anything else. It's pro-American."
The administration said the investment will allow MP Materials to establish a full end-to-end domestic permanent supply chain that will create more than 350 jobs by 2024.
Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables also announced that it has broken ground on a new demonstration facility to test the commercial viability of the sustainable lithium extraction process from geothermal brine.
Another project in partnership with Ford and Volvo addresses the recycling of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries at Nevada-based facilities to extract lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite.
Biden noted that the key minerals -- including lithium, graphite, and rare earth materials -- are critical to constructing automobiles, wind turbines, household appliances and electronics such as phones and computers.
He said that "up to now, we've had to import a significant amount of them, close to 100% importation, from other countries, particularly China, Australia and Chile," adding that the U.S. supply chain must be reliable.
"We've seen what happens when we become dependent on other countries for essential goods, like computer chips. Everyone's become aware of that, because the computer chips are so badly needed," he said.
"Why did the cost of an automobile skyrocket and become about a third of the reason for an increase in inflation? It's because they didn't have the computer chips. You can't build an automobile today without those chips."
Newsom said the investment, which will see the materials separated and processed at MP Materials' Mountain Pass, Calif., facility, could be a "hinge moment" in the Biden administration's efforts to bolster the supply chain.
"We think this is big. We don't want to understate it. We also don't want to overstate it," he told Biden. "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."