“Critical minerals are the essential building blocks for the new technologies that we’re going to need if we are going to be able to fight climate change,” said U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose Fernandez.
Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Under Secretary Fernandez noted that there has been an exponential growth in the need for minerals like lithium, graphite and magnesium.
“Just to give you an example - 42 times the amount of lithium used today we will need by 2050.”
One great challenge presented by such need, Under Secretary Fernandez said, is developing transparent, secure, and sustainable supply chains.
“Right now the supplies of these materials are basically controlled by one or two countries. ... We’re going to need to diversify that. Why? Because as we learned during COVID, when supply chains are concentrated in one or two countries, that’s a risk.”
A third challenge is mining itself.
“Oftentimes, communities that have mining activities around them suffer. . . . We need to find ways for communities and for countries to benefit also from those activities. ... We’re working with countries to make sure that we’re partners and that it’s not just an extraction. ... Why? Because that creates jobs, and it creates opportunities for young people to be able to have a future in their own countries.”
One way the United States is helping to address the challenges raised by critical minerals is through the Minerals Security Partnership. Made up of 13 countries and the European Union, the MSP works with partners across the public and private sectors in investment, finance, and development to create opportunities in responsible mining, processing and recycling.
Under Secretary Fernandez stressed that MSP’s principles are clear.
“We are going to make sure that our companies adhere to the highest environmental principles, governance principles. That means no corruption, and also that we work with communities. Communities have to benefit from these types of projects, otherwise they will oppose them, and the projects will not go forward.”
To fight the existential challenge of climate change, Under Secretary Fernandez said, “We … need to make sure that countries are not forced to choose between environmental degradation and economic growth. This is not an either-or scenario. It’s two objectives that we can meet together.”