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  • US Forest Service Pauses Copper Mine Approval // Australia Wins US Support for Critical Minerals // Interior Approves MVP Route

US Forest Service Pauses Copper Mine Approval // Australia Wins US Support for Critical Minerals // Interior Approves MVP Route

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Welcome to Grid Brief! Here’s what we’re looking at today: the US Forest Services pauses approval on an Arizona copper mine, Australia and the US team up on critical minerals, the US Interior Department okays the Mountain Valley Pipeline route through Jefferson National Forest, and more.

US Forest Service Pauses Copper Mine Approval

The US Forest Service has informed a federal court that it is no longer certain when it will approve a land swap deal that would allow Rio Tinto to develop the Resolution Copper Mine in Arizona.

“The complex case involves a long-running conflict between a mining company hoping to supply more than a quarter of US copper demand for the green energy transition and Indigenous groups seeking to preserve Arizona’s Oak Flat campground, a site of religious importance that would be destroyed by the mine’s construction,” reports Mining.com.

Back in 2014, Congress okayed a land swap that demanded an environmental report. The Trump administration finished the report towards the end of its tenure, but the Biden administration then unpublished the report in 2021. Biden wanted to give his administration time to look over Native American concerns about the project.

After moving through multiple courts, Joan Pepin, a Forest Service attorney, told judges in March that the report would be republished this spring. Earlier this month, Pepin then said, “The department has not yet identified a timeframe for completing its review.”

Pepin said the Forest Service still needed meet with the relevant tribes.

For its part, Rio Tinto has said that it believes there is a way forward, that it will continue to speak with the tribes, and it feels there is substantial local support for the project.

Australia Wins US Support for Critical Minerals

Australia has won American support for its critical minerals industry. The countries have reached an investment agreement to spur industry growth in Australia.

“Australia supplies around half of the world's lithium as well as other minerals like rare earths used in batteries for electric cars and defence amid a global push to diversify supply chains away from dominant producer China,” reports Reuters. “The agreement will also cover clean energy as the country sets itself up to become a major producer of hydrogen and ammonia.”

The deal will treat Australian critical mineral and renewable energy suppliers as domestic suppliers under the US Defense Production Act.

"The climate, critical minerals and clean energy compact is an ambitious agreement," Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told parliament. "It will expand and diversify our clean energy supply. It'll promote the sustainable supply and processing of critical minerals and support the development of clean hydrogen, battery technologies and other clean energy products."

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Interior Approves MVP Route

Good news for Mountain Valley: the Interior Department has just approved its route through a national forest.

“According to a record of decision posted Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management approved a permit and right-of-way request this week for the 42-inch pipeline’s path through 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest,” reports E&E News. “Tommy Beaudreau, the Interior Department’s deputy secretary, backed the decision, according to BLM’s document.”

The 303-mile natural gas Mountain Valley Pipeline is meant to move hydrocarbons between the Virginias. Mountain Valley hopes it will begin service later in the year.

But the pipeline still needs to clear the 4th District court, which hasn’t been too friendly to the project. Last year, it struck down both the BLM and Forest Service’s approval of the route through Jefferson National Forest.

However, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has publicly backed the pipeline. “We know that there is a real desire to have energy security in areas where there’s huge demand for power,” Granholm said in support of MVP.

Though opponents dispute it, Mountain Valley claims its total work on the pipeline is 94% complete.

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