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Tuesday, May 21, 2019
HomeColumnsTesla’s copper shortage highlights eco-movement’s real threat

Tesla’s copper shortage highlights eco-movement’s real threat

By RICK WHITBECK
GUEST COLUMNIST

Tesla, the world’s current “it” auto manufacturer, is concerned.

Their American-made electric vehicles, or EVs, require steady supplies of mined materials: lithium, copper, cobalt and more. And our current capacity might not be enough.

Sarah Maryssael, Tesla’s global supply manager for battery metals, reportedly warned at a closed-door industry conference last week that a global shortage of critical EV components is coming. Tesla is warning of “long-term supply challenges” because of “underinvestment in the mining sector.”

Tesla is right to be concerned about underinvestment in the mining sector, but who should they be concerned with? We need to be asking why hasn’t there been enough investment when we know the need for these elements is coming?

The answer is simple: the environmentalist movement.

For years, environmental groups have worked to raise the cost of opening new mines, especially here in Alaska, where we have plentiful opportunities. They threaten lawsuits, file legal actions, bring in protestors — actions that cumulatively make it more expensive and more difficult to open new mining facilities.

And here’s the crazy part: The same environmental activists who are trying to push “green” energy and transportation are the people fighting the mining activities that can help make it happen. It’s hypocrisy at its finest: they demand green energy but protest the resources needed to make EV’s and battery storage a reality.

In Alaska, for example, the public outcry from environmentalists against the Pebble mine has been deafening. Eco-activists say we must choose between mining and fishery health, and they have relentlessly pursued all means necessary to shutter Pebble before it has a chance to work through the permitting process.

Don’t forget, Pebble would be primarily a copper mine — one of the inputs that Tesla is warning could face shortages.

The same environmental extremism has begun against the whole of the Ambler Mining District, an area in Northwest Alaska that holds world-class deposits, because it will take a new road through state and federal lands to access the projects.

The Aktigiruq deposit features zinc, gold and lead. Arctic VMS has identified copper zinc, lead, gold and silver in its deposit landscape. Bornite has significant copper and cobalt resource potential in its claim area, while Taurus has notable deposits of copper, gold and molybdenum. Graphite Creek has the largest large-flake graphite deposit in the U.S.

All of these projects would help in one way or another to improve output of materials needed to build a more robust green energy world. If the eco-activists had their way, these resources would remain in the ground. Their protests then make no sense.

Will the environmental extremists cede their moral high ground, stop fighting against the mining industry, and realize that resource extraction actually serves their goals in the long run?

My guess is no. To do so would be to give up a potent fundraising method used to vilify responsible resource extraction, and the energy workers who are employed at those projects.

Environmental groups in Alaska and abroad should heed Tesla’s warning. America can lead the way, develop our resources and create the inputs needed for new, low-cost forms of energy and storage — if only these groups would stand aside.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a nationwide non-profit that supports energy workers, while pushing back on radical green groups and the ideologues who fund them. Contact him at RWhitbeck@PowerTheFuture.com

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • When Rio Tinto was a major partner in the Pebble mine project, it was a little worrisome to me. Rio Tinto has mines all over the world and is notorious for pollution, lack of safety protocols and lax operating procedures. With them out of the enterprise, an entirely different picture of the Pebble project is painted. The project can be a productive part of Alaska, providing much needed jobs, tax revenue for the state and vital resources for American manufacturing. There would be so much attention focused on the mining companies in Alaska, specifically Pebble, they wouldn’t dare make a mistake. The Red Dog mining operation near Kotzebue has only had a problem with zinc dust blowing off the transporters, as far as I am able to ascertain, and that’s been addressed. Pebble and other Alaskan mines could well be of great national security concern. Giving Alaska and America our own resources that now must be bought from, sometimes very unfriendly, countries around the world. China has a stranglehold on many strategic mineral, rare earth and other precious minerals and metals, making some not even available to America. Alaska can fix that. We have more assorted minerals, metals and rare earth than anywhere else in North America. It can be done safely. It must be done safely, for the good of Alaska. Make it happen Governor Dunleavy.

    • Apparently Rio Tinto has “seen the light” and is busy rebranding itself as a green miner. Point being that the major miners are being penalized, even kicked out of third world countries for the harm they’ve been doing to the environment.
      The environs have accidentallydone a good service, which wasn’t on their agendas of generating maximum donations. Now if the addled old ladies would just quit mindlessly donating to them.

  • Suzanne has gained thousands of readers from StockTwits, a stock market investor forum. Over 20k read the articles from her news service whenever anyone posts a link. Many of them live in Alaska.
    If you want to see what I’m talking about, go to “stocktwits” then sign up (it’s free) and type in NAK in the Watchlist.

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