The U.S. Forest Service and other agencies will expedite the review of a $1.7 billion underground mine that will process manganese and zinc, two minerals that have recently been deemed by the U.S. Geological Survey as “critical” for national security and the energy transition. The mine would be the only in the U.S. to produce battery-grade manganese, and tap one of the world’s largest undeveloped deposits of zinc.

The project is located in southern Arizona – near the Mexican border – and faces local opposition over worries it would disturb sensitive biomes within the Coronado National Forest, and push already endangered species closer to extinction. “Yes, we do need to be moving away from fossil fuels, but there are other places to mine these minerals and there’s even the possibility to extract minerals that have been tossed into the waste bin,” Carolyn Shafer, president of the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance told E&E. The mining company – South32 Hermosa – has 646 acres of patented private land, and more then 34,000 acres of unpatented mining claims in the area. (E&E $)