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For Critical Minerals, Companies Look to Old Mines

In the push for more critical minerals, governments and companies worldwide are looking to “a new but also old source”: closed mines, or brownfield sites, The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “[O]pening new mines takes years—particularly when faced with strong local opposition—and delays might hamper policymakers’ efforts to diversify these supply chains. Even with recent investment announcements, analysts are forecasting supply shortfalls.”

  • Reopening shuttered mines is often a quicker and less painstaking process because it allows the companies to “avoid damaging new land and work with local communities that have a memory of economic activity the industry can bring,” as a source told the Journal.

A successful start: One Swedish mining company is seeking to reopen an old copper-and-zinc mine in Norway that closed 25 years ago owing to low copper prices. “Last month, the local municipality unanimously approved plans to reopen” the mine.

  • Several American firms are now seeking to reopen closed U.S. sites in the Southwest, and other projects are being planned in Italy and Germany.

​​​​​​​A “shift” in the U.S.: A U.S. company with plans to reopen an old gold mine in Idaho recently received funding from the Defense Department, which recognized the importance of the site as a source of antimony, a much-needed mineral in the defense sector.

  • “The shift we are seeing in the United States is a growing recognition that we must secure supply chains, and a way to do that is bringing mining home and that means getting the public comfortable to bring mining home,” an executive at the firm told the Journal.
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