Greens urge DOE to impose lending standards on mining companies

Environmental groups want the Biden administration to force mining companies to meet conservation and human rights criteria before getting Energy Department loans.

The DOE, under President Joe Biden, preserved a Trump administration decision that freed up some Office of Lending Programs funds for mining-related projects related to electric vehicles and battery manufacturing. . The move aligns with the Biden administration’s ambition to build a resilient national supply chain for low-carbon energy and transportation goods.

Environmentalists sent a letter to the department yesterday asking that loans be limited only to mining-related projects that the company has screened for human rights and environmental risks.

The letter was signed by three major nonprofits — Earthjustice, Earthworks and the Center for Biological Diversity — and smaller advocacy organizations in areas historically associated with mining.

Mining is a priority for some conservation advocates as climate action drives up demand for minerals, while the metals needed to make products like electric vehicles, solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells are rare, according to industry projections.

This extraction also presents tough choices for regulators looking to boost climate action.

Department officials last week announced the first LPO loan to a mining company, a $102 million deal with a subsidiary of Australian firm Syrah Resources to help finance the expansion of a graphite in Louisiana (green wireJuly 27).

The loan is for the processing plant and not for mining operations. But the plant will get its graphite from the Syrah mine in Mozambique’s troubled Cabo Delgado region, where the government is fighting Islamist insurgents.

Academics and human rights experts have observed a history in Cabo Delgado where resource extraction displaces local residents, a phenomenon that could potentially contribute to discontent and extremism in the region. It is unclear whether the loan included conditions regarding graphite mine operations and conditions in surrounding communities (green wireMay 11).

Now the department is responding to loan requests from other mining companies with their own potentially risky projects, such as that of Ioneer Ltd., an Australian company developing a lithium mine in Nevada that would be located near the only habitat of a species. rare flower. , Tiehm buckwheat, which may soon be protected under the Endangered Species Act (green wireDecember 20, 2021).

Some advocates worry that the DOE will lend money to companies with mining projects that will still have difficulty passing the permitting process.

The lawyers, citing the Syrah loan, called on the department to require U.S.-based companies that obtain loans “show evidence of steps they have taken to identify and address human rights risks.” men associated with the extraction” of the minerals they obtain from foreign countries.

In addition, any company receiving a loan from the LPO will also be required to “obtain all required regulatory approvals” for its facilities, the courier said. Lawyers said current regulations allow the agency to guarantee loans to borrowers “who have applied for, but have not received, regulatory approval.”

“This is inappropriate for mineral supply chain projects that may have significant environmental and social impacts,” they wrote.

The Department of Energy declined to comment on the letter.

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