READ my posts of 2.21.21 & 10.8.21. for a background to REE’s.
“We need to do it here in America. It’s part of our future. We can’t rely on overseas supply chains.” What was the Geologist talking about when he was quoted this week in WSJ.? Answer – Lithium – a REE.
Lithium is a soft white metal he believed central to the manufacturing of rechargeable batteries used to power electric cars.
President Biden recently signed an Executive Order calling for a review of the supply chains for materials crucial to the American economy. The US government said that relying on overseas sources for these materials, created ‘a strategic vulnerability’ for the US economy. Lithium critical to battery-powered electric car industry is one such vulnerability.
Piedmont Lithium Ltd is set to open a new mine in North Carolina. It recently signed a supply deal with Tesla Inc. Piedmont is probably furthest advanced in its mining efforts but there are other mining projects on the way in California and Nevada.
Lithium deposits are found worldwide and the current producers are;
Australia 140,000 metric tons
Chile 100,000 metric tons
China 35,000 metric tons
US 3000 metric tons
But the critical supply chain is in the refining of REEs such as lithium, into materials suitable for a manufacturing process.
At the present time that refining process is largely the prerogative of China, who currently refines in excess of two thirds of the world’s mined REEs. Thus, lithium from Australia and Chile is also shipped to China for refining, before joining the supply chain to American manufacturers.