U.S. minerals will make or break President Biden’s infrastructure plan. There is no question that we need both the proposed upgrades to our nation’s roads, bridges, transmission systems, and more, and the jobs those projects will create. But modernizing our country’s aging infrastructure requires bold investment. It also requires access to American-sourced minerals needed for each wire, bolt, circuit and beam. Streamlining domestic mining policy can ensure a stable, responsible minerals supply chain and support thousands of new, high-paying jobs.
What’s in Biden’s Infrastructure Plan?
A lot. The $2.3 trillion proposal announced in March 2021, also known as The American Jobs Plan, includes funding for desperately needed upgrades to our nation’s physical infrastructure as well as investments in the coming electric vehicle future, an expansion of research and development efforts and incentives to reshore manufacturing.
- $621B for Transportation Infrastructure: Investing in America’s transportation infrastructure includes updates of roadways and road safety, bridges, railways, airport upgrades, waterways, and updates that will help structures withstand climate-related disasters. Another large focus of the spending would be dedicated to electric vehicles (EVs) including charging stations, EV bus fleets, and replacing the federal fleet with EVs.
- $300B for Research, Development and Manufacturing: $300B in the plan will be invested in research, development and manufacturing with an emphasis on energy, technology, semiconductors, laboratory upgrades, regional innovation hubs, prevention of future pandemics, and more.
There’s urgency to reinvest and modernize. The American Society of Civil Engineers produces an Infrastructure Report Card every four years on a scale from A-F. The 2021 Infrastructure Report Card gave our country a C-. We can do better and we can do so with American mining providing the foundation of our efforts.
Which minerals will be needed for the administration’s infrastructure plan?
American minerals will play a crucial role in making infrastructure improvements a reality. For example, the infrastructure plan will require the following raw materials and minerals:
- Large amounts of copper for wiring.
- Silver, copper, nickel, lithium, graphite, aluminum and more to support electric vehicles and the associated charging infrastructure.
- Beryllium used in many advanced technologies and medical devices.
- Limestone and gypsum for cement.
- Aluminum, brass or bronze for new pipe fittings for replacing lead pipes.
Simply put, we need access to minerals now to make the American Jobs Plan a reality. And they should come from U.S. mines with world-leading environmental and safety standards and with the help of American workers.
Why does the U.S. need to improve mining regulations for the America Jobs Plan?
If the President’s proposal were to become law without including decisive action to improve America’s mineral supply chain, many elements in the plan will be difficult to execute. Why? Unable to meet the exponential rise in demand for minerals domestically, the U.S. would expand its overreliance on imports, many from geopolitical rivals or unstable nations, to supply these critical materials.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the United States’ mineral import reliance has doubled over the past two decades, with the U.S. now importing 100 percent of 17 key minerals and more than 50 percent for an additional 29 key mineral commodities. This reliance exists despite the fact that the U.S. has abundant domestic mineral resources.
U.S. Minerals are the Lynchpin for the American Jobs Plan
Effectively committing to any nationwide infrastructure plan must include improving the nation’s mining process. Our country has the vast resources to supply these minerals. Yet, U.S. mines produced approximately $86.3 billion in minerals in 2019, a fraction of the $6.2 trillion worth of minerals and metals that could be mined.
In order to access American minerals, we need to make regulatory improvements that make domestic mining more economically viable. Overreliance on other countries for mineral resources leaves us unnecessarily vulnerable when we should be rebuilding secure, reliable and responsible supply chains here at home. If we fail to rejuvenate U.S. mineral policy, our nation’s infrastructure, left without the raw materials it needs to modernize, could be just a pipe dream.