Feds back loan for EV lithium mining, environmental hurdles still at play

The Biden administration is throwing its weight behind a controversial lithium mining project in central Nevada by backing a $700 million loan for the Australian company in charge of the deal.

The mine project is aimed at helping to support the electric car industry and increase production of lithium batteries in the US. The feds have offered the loan, but it’s not that simple.

Lithium is used to produce rechargeable batteries needed to power electric vehicles (EV), and the demand for lithium batteries is expected to increase exponentially over the next 10 years.

The loan, however, is conditional. It will only be approved once an environmental impact study can guarantee the protection of an endangered species of Nevada wildflower, said to be close to extinction.

Federal wildlife services declared the yellow flower endangered last year and claim the development of the mine would be detrimental to its survival.

The 6-inch high wildflower is currently growing in the high desert area halfway between Reno and Las Vegas, the exact location as the proposed mine, as reported by the Associated Press.

Critics of the project say the Biden administration announced the loan as a tactic to try and push the project forward and reassure investors.

Environmentalists are threatening to sue the project, trying to force the company to revamp its entire design plan, the AP stated.

Ioneer, the Australian mining company in charge of the Rhyolite Ridge Project, was hoping to have the mine up and running by 2025.

Since the 2020 election, the US president has been pushing an environmental agenda to bolster the electric car industry, adding more charging stations across the nation, and reducing US dependence on fossil fuels.

The Biden agenda aims to have at least 50% of all new cars bought in the US be electric by 2030.

Presently, there is only one lithium mine operating in the United States. This would be the second. Australia is considered the world leader in terms of lithium mine production.

The mine could produce enough lithium to support production of about 370,000 electric vehicles annually for decades, the AP reported.

Currently, China produces over 70% of the world’s supply of lithium batteries.

The US department of energy states that lithium is “essential to the economic and national security of the United States.”