Mining company South32’s Hermosa manganese and zinc project on Monday became the first US mining project to receive fast-track approval.
The US government added the project to its “Fast-41” legislative process, aimed at speeding up development of clean energy assets and infrastructure.
The project lies within the Patagonia Mountains mining district, in southern Arizona, US. It is the only advanced mine project in the country capable of producing two federally-designated critical minerals, manganese and zinc, according to a press release from South32.
“Becoming a covered Fast-41 project will make the rigorous federal environmental review and permitting process for this project more transparent, predictable, and inclusive for all stakeholders,” South32 Hermosa President Pat Risner said.
The Fast-41 process refers to Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, maintained under the Permitting Council agency. Its purpose is to improve the transparency and outcomes of the Federal environmental review and is responsible for the authorisation process for large-scale infrastructure projects.
To qualify for review under Fast-41, companies must prove that their projects will benefit the nation. The importance of manganese and zinc to battery cell production makes them important for the energy transition, fulfilling these criteria. The current phase of study work for Hermosa’s Clark deposit has confirmed its potential to supply battery-grade manganese from locally sourced ore, according to South32.
The US currently relies entirely on foreign manganese supply, with no domestic mining of the metal having taken place since the 1970s. Efforts to localise supply chains for critical minerals to North America have been central to the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.
This act seeks to incentivise investment in the country’s local supply by giving subsidies to companies that produce electric vehicles with batteries made with a proportion of minerals extracted or processed in the US or a country with a US free trade agreement, or recycled within North America.
“The inclusion of Hermosa as the first mining project added to the Fast-41 process is an important milestone that recognizes the project’s potential to strengthen the domestic supply of critical minerals in the US,” South32 chief executive officer Graham Kerr said in a statement.
The US Senator for Arizona Kyrsten Sinema said she expected the project’s acceptance into Fast-41 to strengthen the state’s position in the responsible production of critical minerals.