Top U.S. energy diplomat expects minerals initiative to continue under Biden

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration’s top energy diplomat said on Friday he expects an initiative aimed at securing supply chains for metals critical for the clean energy transformation will continue with President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden arrives at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“I have every expectation that it would continue,” Frank Fannon, the energy diplomat, told reporters. “Transitioning conversations are underway,” with the incoming Biden officials, Fannon said.

Biden’s inauguration is on Jan. 20. His transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ten countries, including Canada, Australia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru, joined the United States last year in forming the Energy Resource Governance Initiative, or ERGI, to share mining experience and help producer countries discover and develop minerals such as lithium, copper and cobalt.

ERGI is part of effort to reduce global reliance on China for the materials, which are also used in weapons and other high-tech defense equipment.

The initative provides advice to help ensure mining and processing industries in rich and poor countries are attractive to international investors concerned about environment, human rights and governance.

The World Bank has said minerals demand for advanced batteries that allow more implementation of wind and solar power could grow up to 1,000% in 20 to 30 years if governments adopt strict rules on curbing climate change.

China currently dominates the critical minerals market. The Trump administration grew concerned about U.S. dependence on imports after Beijing suggested using them as leverage in the trade war between the world’s largest economic powers.

“If we are going to grow renewables and clean energy technologies the way we think they should be, in the way the market participants are demanding, then we have to create an alternative supply chain,” Fannon said.

He added China’s current dominance of mineral mining and processing creates a “bottleneck” to the current global system.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Aurora Ellis