Mining: The Backbone of the Economy 

Author: Rich Nolan
Mining: The Backbone of the Economy

Your friend. Your neighbor. Maybe even your spouse. Everyone in this country knows someone who works in a mining-supported industry. And that’s because, simply put, mining is the backbone of the American economy. 

The mining industry provides hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. Companies pay billions of dollars in federal, state and local taxes. These income streams, especially in local communities, are unmatched by any other industry. Not only does domestic mining power our nation, but it also builds our infrastructure, pays local taxes and supports our way of life. We need a strong domestic mining industry today and for generations to come.

Unfortunately, even though mining is essential to our daily lives, it is easy for many to overlook, or misunderstand, the significant and irreplaceable role that mining plays.

Millions of Mining Jobs

While mined materials are essential to the construction of the roads, bridges, neighborhoods and cities in which we live, the industry itself provides a vast number of high-paying jobs to Americans. There are over 472,596 direct mining industry jobs, as well as over 813,000 indirect positions – that’s over a million jobs the mining industry supports. These essential men and women make valuable contributions to our country; fueling American industry and supplying the materials that make our lives possible. And with an average wage over $85,000 a year, hardworking miners earn living wages no matter where in the country they live.

Mining is a Good Neighbor

On the national level, it is easy to overlook the fact that mining directly supports local communities. But local governments and organizations know and appreciate the partnerships that these large employers bring to the communities in which they operate. 

The U.S. mining industry pays about 50% of its earnings in federal, state and local royalties, taxes and other fees. In 2019 alone, over $18 billion in federal, state and local taxes were paid by mining companies. 

Federal taxes support our citizens, our economy and our national security. And local taxes can be instrumental in the cities and towns mining companies operate in providing vital funds for the construction of schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure. 

Mined Materials Build Infrastructure

To be a self-sufficient nation, domestic mining must be supported. Mined materials both power and build our country. 

Millions of Americans rely on roads, railways, bridges and airports every day. These structures are constructed with mining-dependent steel and copper; steel is made with a metallurgical coal and iron ore, the world’s most used metal, and copper, the flexible, corrosion-resistant and ideal industrial metal, and zinc, coats and protects iron and steel. 

Just how pervasive are these materials? 

  • Every American will use about 40,000 pounds of newly mined mineral per year to maintain their lifestyle. 
  • There are six billion tons of steel used in the U.S. national highway system, totaling approximately four million miles of road. 
  • Bridges also contain steel – the Golden Gate Bridge, for example, contains 80,000 miles of steel wire and is composed of 83,000 tons of steel.
  • About 46% of U.S. copper goes directly to the construction industry and the average American home contains 439 pounds of copper.
  • It takes 4.7 tons of copper to build a single wind turbine.
  • Electric vehicle construction also requires six times the amount of minerals compared to a conventional gas-powered vehicle.
  • The Department of Defense uses 750,000 tons of minerals each year in technologies and equipment that protect our troops.

Our mineral import reliance has reached an all-time high and, since 1995, we have increased our reliance on foreign minerals by 113%, which is valued at about $5 billion, instead of investing in domestic mining. What’s equally as staggering is that we import nearly 40% of the critical minerals that we rely on for national security. All while more than 8 in 10 voters feel that “Buy American” should also apply to domestically sourced minerals.

The National Mining Association remains committed to spending 2023 working together; with Congress, private industry and thought leaders, to support the mining industry – which is critical to a healthy economy – and unleash the full array of benefits that domestic mining provides.