Politics

Cotton Demands Answers on Partially Chinese-Owned Lithium Mine Potentially Receiving U.S. Funding

September 27, 2022

Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) sent a letter today to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm requesting information about the Department of Energy potentially funding a lithium mine by Lithium Americas, a company partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The letter addresses the significant risks to national security and our supply chain that would arise if federal funding were to deepen Chinese control over America’s critical minerals and urges Granholm to reject Lithium America’s funding request if it refuses to separate from its Chinese owner.

In part, the senator wrote:

“The U.S. government should apply strict oversight regarding potential federal funding of CCP-owned or -controlled entities. DOE’s loan for the Thacker Pass mine would be substantial and reportedly cover the majority of the project’s capital costs. It is critical that DOE ensure taxpayer funding does not go to corporations with CCP ties and does not increase U.S. mineral dependence on China.”

Full text of the letter may be found below.

September 27, 2022

The Honorable Jennifer Granholm

Secretary

Dear Secretary Granholm,

I write to you requesting information and raising concerns regarding reports of the Department of Energy potentially funding a lithium mine controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

The Washington Free Beacon recently reported plans by Lithium Americas, an ostensibly Canadian company, to build a mine at Thacker Pass in Humboldt County, Nevada. Worryingly, media reports indicate that Lithium Americas’ largest shareholder is Ganfeng, a Chinese company with direct ties to the CCP. Ganfeng is currently acquiring lithium mines around the world, which, according to former Secretary Mike Pompeo, is part of a “clear intention by the Chinese Communist Party to control the entire supply chain for green energy.” The United States should be reducing its dependence on China for these critical inputs, not opening the door for China to “gain a foothold in America on lithium mining,” as reported.

I am deeply concerned that, despite clear CCP influence over the company, Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass project is under consideration for a loan through the Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Technologies Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program. Lithium Americas’ assurances that Thacker Pass is 100%-owned by them rather than Ganfeng are insufficient to resolve national security concerns, given the Party’s considerable stake in the company.

The U.S. government should apply strict oversight regarding potential federal funding of CCP-owned or -controlled entities. DOE’s loan for the Thacker Pass mine would be substantial and reportedly cover the majority of the project’s capital costs. As the government continues to invest in battery supply chain programs, it is critical that DOE ensure taxpayer funding does not go to corporations with CCP ties and does not increase U.S. mineral dependence on China.

Your department has an opportunity to leverage this ATVM loan application to incentivize Lithium Americas to part ways with Ganfeng. Ganfeng and any other Chinese entities with CCP ties should divest their stakes in Lithium Americas before the company is offered this loan. If Lithium Americas refuses to part ways with Ganfeng, then I strongly urge you to reject their application for the ATVM loan. The United States urgently needs domestic critical mineral production to supply its technology sector and reduce its dependence on China; the United States does not need and should not fund possible attempts by the CCP to deepen its control over the U.S. critical mineral supply chain.

For the reasons highlighted above, I respectfully request answers to the following questions:

  1. Is DOE aware of Lithium Americas’ application for the Advanced Technologies Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program and the company’s partial ownership by entities closely tied the CCP?
  2. What safeguards or requirements are in place to ensure the ATVM program is not funding other companies owned or controlled by the CCP or other adversaries?
  3. Does DOE agree that the United States must reduce its dependence on China for critical minerals like lithium and should invest in domestic production of such minerals? If so, does DOE believe that funding deeper CCP control of the U.S. critical mineral supply chain is counterproductive to this goal? If not, why not?
  4. Has DOE raised with Lithium Americas the possibility that its loan application for the Thacker Pass project may be harmed by the company’s partial ownership by Ganfeng or that its application may be improved if Ganfeng divested in the company?

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

_________________

Tom Cotton

United States Senator

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