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NEW YORK: US President Joe Biden will rely on ally countries to supply the bulk of the metals needed to build electric vehicles and focus on processing them domestically into battery parts, part of a strategy designed to placate environmentalists, two administration officials with direct knowledge told Reuters.

The plans will be a blow to US miners who had hoped Biden would rely primarily on domestically sourced metals, as his campaign had signalled last autumn, to help fulfill his ambitions for a less carbon-intensive economy.

Rather than focus on permitting more US mines, Biden’s team is more focused on creating jobs that process minerals domestically into electric vehicle (EV) battery parts, according to the people.

Such a plan would help cut US reliance on industry leader China for EV materials while also enticing unions with manufacturing work and, in theory, reduce pandemic-fuelled unemployment.

The US Commerce Department is organizing a June conference to attract more EV manufacturing to the country. Biden’s proposed $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan earmarks $174 billion to boost the domestic EV market with tax credits and grants for battery manufacturers, among other incentives. The department declined to comment.

“It’s not that hard to dig a hole,” said one of the sources. “What’s hard is getting that stuff out and getting it to processing facilities. That’s what the US government is focused on.”

Under the approach, the United States would rely on Canada, Australia and Brazil - among others - to produce most of the critical raw materials needed, while it competes for higher-value jobs turning those minerals into computer chips and batteries, according to the two sources.

Securing the full supply chain from metals to batteries does not require the United States to be the primary producer of the raw materials, said one of the sources.

A full strategy will be finalized after a year-long supply chain review involving national security and economic development officials.

Biden officials want to ensure the administration’s EV aspirations are not imperilled as domestic mines face road blocks, the sources said, both from environmentalists and even some Democrats.

“It rings hollow when I hear everyone use this as a national defense argument, that we have to build new mines to have a greener economy,” said US Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat who has introduced legislation that would permanently block Antofagasta Plc’s proposed Twin Metals copper mine in Minnesota.

“President Biden is focused on seizing the electric vehicle (EV) market, sourcing and manufacturing the supply chain here in America, and creating good-paying, union jobs,” said Ali Zaidi, the deputy White House national climate adviser.

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