U.S. Lithium Industry Slows amid Virus

The coronavirus pandemic has left slowed the U.S. lithium industry. COVID-19 has gotten on the way of the production of lithium, rare earths and other materials used in electric vehicles. U.S. junior miners have slowed engineering work, environmental reviews and loan applications due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Technology executive Keith Phillips, chief executive of North Carolina’s Piedmont Lithium Ltd said, “we can just hit pause”. 

Piedmont and Lithium Americas Corp and ioneer Ltd are now facing engineering or regulatory setbacks that could pushback mine construction. 

U.S. strategic minerals companies have large cash reserves after recent stock and bond offerings. Seth Goldstein, a minerals analyst at Morning Star said “Coronavirus could cause a year or two delay on projects”. “That helps China right now”, he added. 

COVID-19 which took the world by storm, killing nearly 20,000 across the globe is the latest headache for the industry. Data from Benchmark Minerals Intelligence showed prices for white metal was down 37% last year due to oversupply concerns. Moreover, Benchmark’s Andrew Miller said the economic fallout from the outbreak will stunt the development of their projects. 

U.S. Lithium Industry and The Pentagon Decision

The Pentagon last year planned to fund mines using the Defense Production Act. This law gives the military wide berth to procure certain equipment and which Trump considered using for manufacturing medical supply.

With the virus outbreak, these modern technology plans have been left pending. U.S. rare earth developers are concerned the virus could delay any Pentagon decision indefinitely. 

Pat Ryan, chairman of UCore Rare Metals Inc which develops an Alaska rare earths mine said, “ it’s on point with what we’ve been saying”. “As untimely as COVID-19 is, North American independence is needed now. 

Other companies are also waiting: Medallion Resources Ltd and privately held USA Rare Earth  and Texas Mineral Resources Corp. MP Materials runs the only rare earth’s mine and it remains operational but resilient on China for final processing. The U.S. lithium industry is on pending as focus is set on virus conerns.

Paul Kern, a retired U.S. Army general and USA Rare Earth board member said “we can’t lose sight of things”. “Things that we need to do at this very busy time for our country”. 

Technology news says this slowdown is a blow to Trump’s  plans to curb Chinese control of the strategic mineral sector. Production of electric vehicle minerals and high-tech equipment will boost the U.S. lithium industry when the virus crisis is over.

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