This Remote Mine Could Foretell the Future of America’s Electric Car Industry – The New York Times

August 30, 2022 by No Comments

Hiding a thousand feet below the earth’s surface in this patch of northern Minnesota wetlands are ancient mineral deposits that some view as critical to fueling America’s clean energy future.

A company called Talon Metals is drilling here around the clock, extracting samples of rock rich with nickel in a bid to become the country’s sole source of a material used to power zero-emission vehicles.

But some locals are fighting the mine, for fear it could pollute their environment. The pushback hints at how difficult it may be to build an all-American supply chain that powers the country’s transition to electric vehicles.

TAMARACK, Minn. — In this isolated town of about 100 people, dozens of employees are at work for Talon Metals, drawing long cylinders of rock from deep in the earth and analyzing their contents. They liken their work to a game of Battleship — each hole drilled allows them to better map out where a massive and long-hidden mineral deposit is lurking below.

The company is proposing to build an underground mine near Tamarack that would produce nickel, a highly sought-after mineral that is used to power electric vehicles. It would be a profitable venture for Talon, which has a contract to supply nickel for Tesla’s car batteries, and a step forward in the country’s race to develop domestic supply chains to feed the growing demand for electric vehicles.

But mines that extract metal from sulfide ore, as this one would, have a poor environmental record in the United States, and an even more checkered footprint globally. While some in the area argue the mine could bring good jobs to a sparsely populated region, others are deeply fearful that it could spoil local lakes and streams that feed into the Mississippi River. There is also concern that it could endanger the livelihoods and culture of Ojibwe tribes whose members live just over a mile from Talon’s land and have gathered wild rice here for generations.

Talon says it will invest heavily to design the world’s greenest and most responsible mine yet, one that they say “Joe Biden can love.” But some people in the community remain skeptical, including about the company’s promises to respect Indigenous rights, like the tribes’ authority over lands where their members hunt and gather food. Part of that mistrust stems from the fact that Talon’s minority partner, Rio Tinto, provoked outrage in 2020 by blowing up a 46,000-year-old system of Aboriginal caves in Australia in a search for iron ore.

Kelly Applegate, the commissioner of natural resources for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, said he was “very concerned” about how the mine might damage the environment. “This again is an assault on Native culture, a disturbance of our way of being, another trauma that could potentially happen to our people,” he said.

He described it as a “huge environmental justice issue” to mine local resources for electric cars that the tribe’s members would be unable to afford. Except for some wealthy homeowners who spend their summers around the lakes, the area is …….



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