Coronavirus slows U.S. push to produce electric vehicle minerals
(Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic is hobbling U.S. efforts to produce lithium, uncommon earths and different supplies utilized in electric autos and high-tech tools, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump’s plan to curb Chinese management of the strategic minerals sector.
As the pandemic has killed almost 20,000 throughout the globe, U.S. junior miners have slowed engineering work, environmental critiques and mortgage functions.
“We can just hit pause,” stated Keith Phillips, chief government of North Carolina’s Piedmont Lithium Ltd.
Piedmont, Lithium Americas Corp and ioneer Ltd, each of which have Nevada initiatives, have stated they now face engineering or regulatory setbacks that might push again mine development.
Most corporations targeted on U.S. strategic minerals have massive money reserves after latest inventory and bond choices. While none have but to report an worker testing optimistic, the virus has however fueled a bunker mentality amongst some executives.
“Coronavirus could cause a year or two delay on projects,” stated Seth Goldstein, a minerals analyst at Morningstar. “That helps China right now.”
The pandemic is simply the most recent headache for the lithium trade, with costs for white metallic down 37 p.c up to now yr due to oversupply issues, in accordance to information from Benchmark Minerals Intelligence.
“The economic fallout from the outbreak will stunt the development of new projects,” stated Benchmark’s Andrew Miller.
As the U.S. authorities turns its focus to the coronavirus, uncommon earth initiatives are additionally left ready.
The Pentagon final yr stated it might fund mines utilizing the Defense Production Act, which supplies the army broad berth to procure sure tools. Trump has not too long ago thought-about utilizing the identical regulation to increase medical provide manufacturing.
But now, U.S. uncommon earths builders fear the virus may delay any Pentagon choice indefinitely. MP Materials, which runs the one U.S. uncommon earths mine, stays operational, although it’s reliant on China for closing processing.
“As untimely as COVID-19 is, it’s on point with what we’ve been saying: North American independence is needed now,” stated Pat Ryan, chairman of UCore Rare Metals Inc, which is growing an Alaska uncommon earths mine.
Medallion Resources Ltd, in addition to privately held USA Rare Earth and Texas Mineral Resources Corp, are additionally ready on the Pentagon.
“We can’t lose sight of all the other things that we need to do at this very busy time for our country,” stated Paul Kern, a retired U.S. Army common and USA Rare Earth board member.
(GRAPHIC: The novel coronavirus within the U.S. – right here)
Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by David Gregorio