U.S. Senators sent a bipartisan letter to the Biden administration Friday afternoon asking the president to invoke the Defense Production Act to accelerate production of battery materials that are needed to power electric vehicles.
The letter, signed by Democrat Joe Manchin and Republicans Lisa Murkowski, James Risch and Bill Cassidy, said doing so would bolster America’s critical mineral supply chains by ensuring responsible mining and sourcing.
The letter comes two weeks after President Joe Biden announced the U.S. is seeking to boost domestic extraction of minerals known as rare earths.
“In order to address the threats to our national security, we respectfully request that you invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic production of lithium-ion battery materials, in particular graphite, manganese, cobalt, nickel, and lithium,” according to a copy of the letter seen by Bloomberg.
“Our dependence on foreign-sourced cobalt and lithium is elevated as the processing of both is dominated by China.”
Karina Borger, a spokeswoman for Murkowski, confirmed the letter was sent to the White House. Messages to the offices of the other senators weren’t immediately returned.
China accounted for 78% of rare-earth compounds and metals imports to the U.S. between 2017 and 2020, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Of increasing attention by politicians in Washington is the need for responsible mining and ethical sourcing of rare earths, as the mining industry points to poorer working conditions, corruption, child labor and other problems in some mining jurisdictions around the globe.
Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk has cited the importance of sustainable metal extraction for use in his electric vehicles.