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The Canary In The Pebble Mine

pebble mine area

Politicians are demanding that the U.S. become more self-sufficient in crucial metals and minerals, but then they block domestic mining at every opportunity.

Alaska’s Pebble Mine project is the latest to join the casualty list.

The Pebble site holds an estimated $300 billion to $500 billion in mineral resources and could be one of the world’s largest suppliers of copper and gold.  [bold, links added]

Electric cars as well as wind and solar power require enormous amounts of copper.

Investors have invested nearly $1 billion in exploration, engineering, and studies to meet regulatory demands.

Yet last week the Biden Environmental Protection Agency issued a determination under the Clean Water Act that would ban the disposal of mining waste within 308 square miles of the Pebble site, regardless of whether it poses an environmental risk.

This could be a fatal blow to the mine.

The political assault on the project began when the Obama EPA pre-emptively vetoed it before the government even did an environmental review.

The Trump EPA later let the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers do an environmental analysis, and in July 2020 the Corps found the mine would have “no measurable effect” on local fish populations.

But then Donald Trump Jr. came out against the mine, and a few weeks after the November election the Corps rejected Pebble’s permit.

The Pebble developers challenged the Corps’ seemingly arbitrary decision and could prevail.

But Alaska’s two Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, also oppose the Pebble Mine even as they oppose the EPA veto on legal principle, so this could be the end of the project.

Resource development can occur while protecting the environment. Yet the same climate activists working to stop fossil-fuel development are also trying to block mineral mining essential for renewable energy.

As one example, a recent Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report calls for a moratorium on most lithium brine extraction. Lithium is essential to make batteries for electric vehicles.

The NRDC instead wants “longer-term solutions that reduce the need for new batteries,” such as “public policy tools to allow greater access to and use of public transit, biking, and walking.”

Greens want to ban gas-fueled cars and block the mining of minerals for electric cars.

Politicians will claim Pebble’s surrounding region is unique in its environmental value, but there is always another excuse to ban the next mine.

In January the Interior Department revoked long-held federal leases for mining in Minnesota’s Duluth Complex, which accounts for 95% of America’s nickel, 88% of its cobalt, and more than one-third of its copper.

Minerals and metals will still be mined, but in countries with far fewer environmental protections such as Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and China.

The next time a politician bemoans America’s supply-chain vulnerability, ask which specific mining project he supports.

Read more at WSJ

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