It has been three months since the November election, but the results are still being felt throughout the country. And one industry greatly affected by this election was the mining industry.
For the last eight years, we were in the bull’s eye, providing target practice to regulators.
No change in administrations will alter an industry’s prospects entirely. But there is much the new Congress and the administration can do to revitalize the industry, and improve its outlook.
Metals and mineral mine projects face a lengthy and cumbersome permitting process, coupled with unpredictable, unreasonable land withdrawals and duplicative proposed financial assurance requirements that have forced us into a position where we are more import dependent on minerals than any time in history. According to the 2017 United States Geological Survey report, the U.S. is now at least 50 percent import reliant for 50 key minerals — and 100 percent import-reliant for 20 of those.
For the coal industry, government policies designed to keep coal in the ground—including Clean Power Plan, the stream rule and the coal leasing moratorium—have inflicted heavy damage. The evidence? Just look at the numbers. From 2008 until the last few quarters of 2016, coal lost 64,000 direct jobs [MSHA], more than half of its power plants (52 percent) and close to half of its mines (45 percent).
Contrast this decline in high-paying domestic jobs and challenges utilizing domestic mineral resources against the findings of polling conducted by Morning Consult for the National Mining Association in January. Voters see job creation and the U.S. economy as the top priority for the incoming administration and the new Congress.
Encouragingly, it seems the 115th Congress and the administration are listening.
In its first week in session this year, members of the Senate and House introduced the “National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2017.” Led by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) in partnership with Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), this important legislation addresses the deficiencies of our outdated and underperforming permitting system. It provides for efficient, timely and thorough permit reviews, and incorporates best practices for coordination between state and federal agencies. President Trump also issued two executive orders for streamlining permitting on manufacturing and infrastructure projects, two sectors deeply reliant upon a secure supply of domestic metals and minerals.
And exercising their powers under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), members of the House and Senate voted to repeal a destructive and duplicative 380-page rule displacing effective state regulations all at the expense of one third of the coal industry’s workforce; this was the 115th Congress’ first CRA action.
The fact that mining has been a priority for Congress in its first days of 2017 is a good first step, but it must be the first in a long journey to undo the damage done over the past eight years.
A regulatory re-set is vital for restoring the jobs that Americans say they want. If Congress and the Administration remain committed to this course, the benefits extend beyond our operations and our employees. Policies that support mining support domestic manufacturing, infrastructure projects and affordable energy while increasing revenue to hard-pressed local communities.