Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland did not provide specific details about any plans by the Biden administration to increase American access to domestic sources of critical minerals following her issuance of a mining ban across parts of Minnesota when asked to do so by Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) during a Tuesday hearing held by a House subcommittee on appropriations.
Zinke, who held the position of interior secretary during the Trump administration, asked Haaland if the Biden administration had “fast-tracked the production of permitting” of domestic sources of critical minerals following its moratorium decree on mining across a section of Minnesota wilderness thought to contain copper and nickel deposits.
Zinke asked, “Is it your policy that critical minerals should be sourced from countries that are stewards of the environment — like the U.S. and our allies — or sourced from Russia and China that don’t share our same values?”
The representative from Montana emphasized the indispensability of critical minerals in the production of electric vehicles , which the Biden administration frames as essential technology to combat what it dubs “the climate crisis.”
Zinke noted the Chinese government’s growing control of the global supply of critical minerals.
“Are you aware that China controls, by proxy production, the supply chain of critical minerals that are critical to both the EV world and defense?” Zinke asked. “Are you aware — by multiple studies — that in order to satisfy the present requirements of EV and critical minerals in defense, it would take an increase of 2,000 percent of mining for 20 years?”
Haaland replied, “Thank you for that information.”
Zinke stated, “Northern Minnesota is home to those critical minerals that are necessary for EV and our defense department.”
On Sunday, Haaland signed an order as interior secretary to deny mining access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.