WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Mining Association (NMA) today urged the administration to broaden the scope of its efforts to implement the recently-issued Executive Order (EO), “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.”
The EO, issued Dec. 20, 2017, raised alarm bells about heavy U.S. reliance on imports of certain mineral commodities that are vital to the nation’s security and economic prosperity. The EO notes that this reliance creates a “strategic vulnerability for both [the U.S.] economy and military to adverse foreign government action, natural disaster, and other events that can disrupt supply of these key minerals.” In a notice published today, the U.S. Geological Survey provided a preliminary list of minerals that it considers critical pursuant to the EO.
NMA urges the Department of Interior (DOI) to broaden its view of “criticality.” “All minerals are ‘critical’ when we need them and can’t get them,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “DOI should act to address the greatest threat to U.S. mineral security: the broken domestic mining permitting process.”
Today’s notice does acknowledge the drawbacks of criticality methodologies in forecasting future supply and demand. Mineral criticality is not static, but changes over time, observes DOI, saying “this analysis represents a snapshot in time that should be reviewed and updated periodically using the most recently available data in order to accurately capture rapidly evolving technological developments and the consequent material demands” [emphasis added].
Said Quinn: “More than a complex listing process, we need a simplified and efficient permitting system that unlocks the value of all our domestic mineral resources, restores our ability to compete and, once again, makes the U.S. a place where mining companies want to invest.”
Despite being home to abundant mineral resources, the U.S. is now 100 percent import reliant for 20 minerals and more than 50 percent import reliant for an additional 30 minerals. While the permitting process in the U.S. can take seven to 10 years, countries like Canada and Australia, which have similar environmental standards and abundant mineral resources, complete the permitting process in just two to three years. Because of this competitive disadvantage, the U.S. only accounts for 7 percent of global spending on mineral exploration, and production is reliant on mature mining projects. In addition, the average remaining life of active mines in the U.S. as well as the share of U.S. projects in advanced stages of development have also fallen in recent years.