Chinese lithium giant Ganfeng’s role in Nevada mining project raises fears that Democrats’ push for green energy will benefit the communist nation
Collin Anderson • September 21, 2022 04:59
Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is backing a foreign company’s plan to deliver America’s green energy future through a massive lithium mine in Nevada. The main shareholder of this company is a Chinese company run by known members of the Chinese Communist Party, which raises fears that the project will ultimately benefit America’s main adversary.
In September 2020, Sisolak approved $8.5 million in tax abatements for Lithium Americas, a Canadian company that intends to mine tens of thousands of tons of lithium – the key component of electric vehicle batteries – at a site in northern Nevada. Another Nevada Democrat, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, met with company executives in 2019 and two years later persuaded her Hill colleagues to drop legislation that would have imposed costly levies on Lithium Americas. and other hardrock miners.
Both Sisolak and Cortez Masto have argued that lithium mining in Nevada will accelerate America’s clean energy economy by securing a domestic supply chain for crucial minerals, a sector dominated by China. But those arguments ignore Lithium Americas’ largest shareholder, Chinese mining giant Ganfeng, who sits on Lithium Americas’ board and “may…be able to affect the company’s operations and direction,” according to Lithium Americas’ latest annual report.
Ganfeng’s influence over Lithium Americas raises concerns that Sisolak and Cortez Masto’s green energy push could support the Chinese Communist Party, especially given Ganfeng’s close ties to Beijing. Ganfeng chairman Li Liangbin, for example, holds positions on a range of committees and advisory boards that feed into the Chinese Communist Party, and the company’s 2021 annual report describes board member Yu Jianguo as “a member of the Chinese Communist Party”. Additionally, Ganfeng executive vice president Wang Xiaoshen, who sits on the board of Lithium Americas, “has established himself in the lithium business with China State-Owned Enterprises,” according to a 2011 press release. .
China already controls around 60% of the world’s lithium resources thanks in part to Ganfeng. With the support of Chinese state-owned banks, the company has acquired significant stakes in lithium mining projects in Chile, Argentina and Australia. Now, Ganfeng could expand its footprint in the United States for the first time, prompting former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to express extreme concern over the Chinese company’s large stake in Lithium Americas and its ties. with the Chinese government. If the project were to go ahead, Pompeo explained, China would “gain a foothold in America in lithium mining.”
“The United States government has a responsibility to look through this facade, this corporate entity that faces the Chinese Communist Party, and prevent them from moving forward,” Pompeo told the newspaper. Free Washington Beacon. “It is clearly an intention of the Chinese Communist Party to control the entire green energy supply chain. They want a monopoly on lithium, and allow them to do so by presenting themselves through a Canadian entity is dangerous.” The United States Treasury Department has the ability to prevent this from happening, and they should.”
Lithium Americas played down its connection to China, telling the Free tag that although Ganfeng has direct ownership in another Lithium Americas mine in Argentina, the company “owns 100%” of its Nevada project and remains “focused on selling to US-focused customers to strengthen the chain of national supply of batteries”. Still, Lithium Americas confirmed both Ganfeng’s 11.1% stake in the company and Wang’s role on the company’s board. Management and directors of Lithium Americas, by contrast, own a 5.6% stake in the company, according to its September corporate presentation. No company or person other than Ganfeng owns more than 10% of Lithium Americas’ stock, the company’s 2022 shareholder report said.
Neither Sisolak nor Cortez Masto returned requests for comment. Sisolak in September 2020 said he was “grateful” for Lithium Americas’ “major” investment in Nevada. About two years later, in July, the Democrat said Nevada ‘leading the way to clean energy’ thanks to Lithium Americas work with the University of Nevada-Reno to “help identify and advance new processes for the electrification and battery industry.” Cortez Masto, meanwhile, is known as a “fierce critic of policy proposals that would create new rules regarding mining” and has argued that President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which allocated $17 billion in loans to “support the national battery supply chain”. “would benefit national security by leveling the playing field with China.”
Now, China-linked companies such as Lithium Americas could take advantage of the loans. In April, the company announced its “submission of a formal loan application to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program,” a funding source that Lithium Americas says will cover ” the majority” of the “capital costs” arising from his Nevada. mine, which sits on the largest known lithium reserve in the United States.
It is unclear whether the company’s ties to Beijing will deter its loan application. Ganfeng invested $174 million in Lithium Americas in 2017, and Li has gained considerable political influence in China since the deal. A 2019 Foreign Police report, for example, states that in 2018 Li joined the Standing Committee of the 12th Political Consultative Conference of Jiangxi Province. And in June, Li became an elected leader of the China Association for Democratic Construction, a Chinese Communist Party front group that last week released a report pledging to adhere to Communist leadership and “unswervingly follow the party”.
Beyond Biden’s infrastructure bill for 2021, Lithium Americas — and, by proxy, Ganfeng — has benefited from the Democrats’ so-called Cut Inflation Act, which invests $370 billion in green energy. Lithium Americas CEO Jonathan Evans went into ‘full celebration’ after Biden signed the legislation, which was ‘full of benefits for the mining industry’, according to E&E news. “It’s a big deal. We’re excited about it,” Evans said of the law in August. Weeks later, Biden tapped John Podesta, who has encouraged Chinese investment in US infrastructure, to oversee the act’s hundreds of billions of dollars in climate spending.
Lithium Americas plans to meet a quarter of global lithium demand from its Nevada mine, according to Really clear surveys. The company expects “preliminary construction work” on the mine to begin “later this year”.