Guest post: The inextricable link between minerals mining and America’s economic future

Posted on August 10, 2012 by Minerals Make Life

The importance of minerals to our society and economy is undeniable. The American way of life, as we know it, is supported by these resources beneath our feet, which help bring to life innovations ranging from life-saving medical devices to alternative energy technologies.

Yet as millions across the globe rely on technologies supported by minerals, developed and emerging countries alike are jockeying to secure these vital resources. Here in the United States, the acquisition of these resources remains tied in an outdated, muddled permitting process. It can take a staggering seven to 10 years to receive permitting approval for just one mine—precious time that, as it spans, costs our nation valuable jobs and discourages companies from investing here. In order for us to become a global leader in bringing innovative technologies to market, this burdensome permitting process must change.

The House of Representatives took a step in the right direction last month with the passage of Rep. Mark Amodei’s National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012 (H.R. 4402). This legislation would alleviate the permitting challenges plaguing the U.S. mining sector by creating a more efficient process that would welcome investment and lead to increased minerals production.

My company, American Elements, a supplier of minerals to the U.S. military, national laboratories and 40 percent of the Fortune 50 companies—including GE, Honeywell, GM and Boeing—is acutely aware of the devastating effects of our outdated permitting process on the minerals supply chain. Unable to obtain sufficient supplies of domestic resources, many companies are forced to depend on expensive, unreliable supplies of minerals from foreign countries. And with China’s recent export restrictions on rare earth minerals, the need for a reliable, domestic supply chain becomes more apparent with each passing day.

Unfortunately, much of the opposition for a more efficient mining permitting process comes from environmentalists who are keen on shutting down any and all natural resource extraction. Ironically, a more efficient permitting process would aid the continued development of alternative energy technologies touted by environmentalists. Lithium, for example, is required for hybrid car batteries and neodymium is used in wind turbines. In its most recent Critical Materials Strategy, the U.S. Department of Energy noted that the future development of clean energy technology may be affected by supply challenges for key minerals. If our nation is to continue diversifying its energy portfolio, as environmentalists advocate, we must take advantage of the mineral resources within our borders. And rather than blocking progress, environmentalists should view issues such as our permitting process as an opportunity to work together to create efficient, policies that promote safe domestic resource development.

Advanced energy is just one of the many American sectors affected by the supply struggles that stem from a weak permitting process; manufacturing, construction and technology are impacted as well. Our leaders must recognize the inextricable link between minerals mining and America’s economic future, and support the development of a permitting process that will safely provide us with the critical elements we need.

Michael Silver is the president and CEO of American Elements.

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