When Congress returns from the August recess, an important bill aiming to reform the inefficient permitting process for U.S. mines will be up for a vote on the House floor. Introduced by Nevada’s Rep. Mark Amodei (R), and representing a win-win for our economy, workforce and energy independence, it is time for the House to act by passing this legislation as swiftly as possible.
As Nevadans know, the mining industry has a long and valuable history in this state and serves as a boon to the local economy, including in the energy sector. The silver and lithium deposits in Nevada alone are crucial to the development of solar panels and electric cars and to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s efforts to make Nevada a net exporter of emerging energy technologies.
Unfortunately, a duplicative and inefficient regulatory process keeps Nevada — and the United States as a whole — from leveraging the full potential of our mineral reserves. But Amodei’s legislation aims to modernize the permitting process for U.S. mines and improve access to the trillions of dollars’ worth of resources in our nation’s backyard.
In Nevada, the implications of encouraging mineral development are tangible. It is known as the “Silver State” and home to the fourth-largest gold deposit in the world. In fact, mining is the largest industry in rural Nevada, contributing more than $100 million each year to our state and local economies. Nevada mining supports tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and mining wages are the highest in the state – with salaries nearly 50 percent higher than the statewide average.
As it stands today, protracted delays – that span seven to 10 years on average – can reduce the value of a mine by one-third to one-half. Other countries with similarly stringent regulations, such as Australia and Canada, complete mine permitting in two years. As the location of roughly 80 percent of U.S. gold production, Nevada is directly affected by the current process. A report from the U.S. Geological Survey noted that even in mining-friendly states such as Nevada, mine development is severely hampered by regulatory delays. For example, the Turquoise Ridge gold mine in the Potosi Mining District took eight years to successfully complete the permitting process.
The regulatory hurdles facing mines affect more than the mining industry. U.S. manufacturers, the cornerstone of rebuilding the post-recession economy, rely on minerals. In Nevada alone, there are 1,800 manufacturing companies, supporting more than 56,000 workers. Yet, as it stands today, our manufacturers remain dependent on imports for 19 key minerals resources and half of our supply of 24 additional minerals. Fixing a broken regulatory process will not only bring real wealth back into the U.S., it will mark a significant step towards resource independence.
The United States needs the policies garnering its minerals brought into the 21st century. We appreciate Amodei’s leadership on this important issue and when this legislation is up for a vote in September, we urge the rest of the House to follow his example a support a bill with such clear benefits to Nevada and the rest of the country.
Hal Quinn is the president and CEO of the National Mining Association.
Read this post in Reno Gazette Journal