In his first ‘State of the Union’ address last month, President Trump declared rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure a major priority for this administration. A few weeks later, the president outlined his legislative principles to deliver the safe, reliable, and modern infrastructure that Americans deserve. The plan includes $1.5 trillion in investments to rebuild our failing infrastructure and develop innovative, new projects.
Most Americans are painfully familiar with the deteriorating systems that make infrastructure such a pressing issue. An overwhelming number of Americans (81 percent) believe that infrastructure investments will improve their personal quality of life, according to the Trump administration. Of those polled, 89 percent said investing in infrastructure will strengthen the economy, and 82 percent believe infrastructure investments will bring more jobs to their communities.
And the first step the administration and Congress can take to rebuild and upgrade America’s infrastructure is one that has no cost: modernizing our mine permitting processes. From foundations to roofs, power plants to wind farms, roads and bridges to communications grids and data storage centers—America’s infrastructure projects begin with mining.
For example, energy production, construction, transportation, and equipment manufacturing all require steel—a material dependent on both metallurgical coal and iron ore for its production. Copper’s flexibility, conformity, thermal and electric conductivity, and resistance to corrosion make it an ideal industrial metal for power cables, wiring in transit systems, and components of wind turbines. Silver can be found in water filtration systems and solar panels. These are just a few of the ways that mining is contributing to America’s infrastructure.
However, in America it takes an average of seven to 10 years to obtain a mine permit, compared to two to three years in countries with similar environmental protections like Canada and Australia.
Think about that for a minute.
Our nation’s most iconic infrastructure projects were completed in the fraction of the time it now takes to obtain federal and state approvals to mine. The Golden Gate Bridge, for example, was built in just four years and it remains the tallest bridge in the United States. And the Empire State Building, the fifth-tallest completed skyscraper in the U.S., was built in only 410 days.
In fact, our outdated, duplicative permitting process has put America’s natural resource supply chains in jeopardy. The U.S. is now 100 percent import-reliant on foreign sources for 20 key minerals and metals, and 50 percent or more import-reliant for an additional 30 more.
Importing resources that we have here at home is further evidence of our broken system. Our mines can meet these needs if we reform an outdated and cumbersome mine permitting process that jeopardizes access, discourages domestic employment and hampers investment. There’s no reason the U.S., with world-class mineral resources valued at about $6.2 trillion, can’t rise to the occasion and meet the needs of this administration’s infrastructure proposal.
But without timely access to the raw materials needed for building and repairing the nation’s infrastructure, costs will increase, projects will be stuck on hold, new employment will slow, and our reliance on imported metals from less reliable and politically unstable countries will continue to grow.
The U.S. mining industry must have certainty if the nation is going to address its infrastructure challenges in a comprehensive and timely fashion. Modernizing the permitting process will help to guarantee a successful rebuilding of America.