- The Biden Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final determination that will block the mining of necessary material for electric vehicles (EV) despite pushing automakers to ensure that EVs make up 50% of all vehicles sold in the country by 2030.
- The determination will prevent the further mining of 1.4 billion tons of copper, gold, molybdenum, silver and rhenium from the area, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
- A standard vehicle uses 18 to 50 pounds of copper and an EV powered by a battery requires 85 to 183 pounds of copper, with copper demand expected to increase by 1,700 kilotons by 2027, according to the Copper Development Association.
The Biden administration is pushing automakers to ensure that electric vehicles (EV) make up 50% of all vehicles sold in the country by 2030, but on Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final determination that will block the mining of necessary material for EV batteries in one of the “world’s largest undeveloped” areas of resources.
The determination will alter Pebble Limited Partnership’s current mining process by blocking certain Alaskan watersheds from being used as disposal sites for dredged or fill materials, while also blocking the further mining of 1.4 billion tons of copper, gold, molybdenum, silver and rhenium from the area, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The mining project would have provided “tens of millions” in tax dollars for the state of Alaska, and helped source EV materials after the passing of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which restricted electric vehicle products from Xinjiang, China, one of the main sources of products crucial in making batteries.
The EPA’s decision was made under the Clean Water Act and aims to protect “the most productive wild salmon ecosystem in the world,” according to the determination. (RELATED: Biden Admin Blocks Major Mining Project Days After Signing Deal With Child Labor Hotbeds For Rare Metals)
The Biden administration is pushing automakers to work toward making 50% of all vehicles sold in the country by 2030 electric, according to a White House fact sheet. One of the materials Pebble Limited Partnership intended to mine, copper, is necessary in EVs, according to the Copper Development Association.
A standard vehicle uses 18 to 50 pounds of copper and an EV powered by a battery requires 85 to 183 pounds, according to the Copper Development Association. The demand for copper due to electric vehicles is expected to increase by 1,700 kilotons by 2027.
The Pebble Limited Partnership mine is considered the “world’s largest undeveloped copper, gold, molybdenum, silver and rhenium resource,” according to Northern Dynasty, which owns 100% of the Pebble Limited Partnership
In October, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) found that Chinese lithium-ion EV batteries were possibly tainted by child labor, as the cobalt used to make the batteries is often mined by children in the Congo. In January, the Biden administration agreed to a memorandum of understanding with Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to strengthen the EV battery value chain.
One week before signing the memorandum of understanding, the administration canceled a major mining project on 200,000 acres of land in Minnesota, saying it was for water protection.
We are helping protect Bristol Bay, the world’s most productive wild salmon ecosystem.
Today, we took a final action to limit the disposal of dredged and fill material associated with the Pebble deposit in Southwest Alaska.
Read our full statement: https://t.co/cqXpZQaede pic.twitter.com/cmn48uYo3I
— U.S. EPA Water (@EPAwater) January 31, 2023
The Pebble Limited Partnership first requested to mine the 1.4 billion tons of ore in Alaska in 2020, but was denied by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2021. The Army Corps of Engineers noted that that the mine would run for 20 years and would take another 20 years to close, while also arguing that it would require years of water management and monitoring.
The decision is under appeal.
Environmental groups have long opposed the Bristol Bay mining project, alleging it would devastate the salmon-rich waters of Bristol Bay, but many of the same groups have also advocated for making electric vehicles the future of the industry.
The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Earthjustice have advocated against mining projects in Bristol Bay while also pushing for EVs that require the materials that they advocated against mining.
“Updating our laws and regulations is part of the sustainable solutions needed to meet the demands for critical minerals and ensure that our clean energy future isn’t built on a foundation of dirty mining,” Earthjustice wrote in an article sent as a response to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Though the mining potential in the area could bring the state millions of dollars and help provide essential metals for the production of EV batteries, the salmon industry is critical in the region, as it brought in $2.2 billion in 2019 and results in 15,000 jobs annually, according to the EPA determination. Furthermore, The Bristol Bay watershed provides salmon harvest for some of Alaska’s Native communities in the Bristol Bay region, one of the last sustainable salmon-based cultures in the world.
“After reviewing the extensive scientific and technical record spanning two decades, EPA has determined that specific discharges associated with developing the Pebble deposit will have unacceptable and adverse effects on certain salmon fishery areas in the Bristol Bay watershed,” EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox said in the determination.
The White House, Sierra Club and NRDC did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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