March 31, 2015
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) aims to improve the U.S.’ ...
This week, The Wall Street Journal featured a piece by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in which she emphasizes the deep need for the U.S. to open access to its valuable domestic mineral resources. The current U.S. minerals mining policy has impaired domestic manufacturing and endangered the U.S.’ stance as the top manufacturing country in the world. For instance, the mine permitting process is plagued by protracted delays that stunt the nation’s mineral supply, and in turn, the supply of raw materials to support U.S. manufacturers. Sen. Murkowski states:
“…when it comes to the minerals that fuel so much else in modern life—from smartphones to flat-screen TVs to wind turbines—we are still stuck in the Dark Ages, highly dependent on other countries as we sit on valuable resources that could be meeting national needs.”
Despite being home to more than $6.2 trillion worth of mineral reserves, the U.S. has become increasingly reliant on imports for our key mineral resources. “America’s foreign dependence has grown significantly since 1978 and seems to deepen each year as federal mineral policies become more obsolete,” says Sen. Murkowski. To date, more than half of 43 key minerals and metals came from imports. As the senator notes, the U.S. is 100 percent reliant on 19 of those mineral resources, many of which are critical to the nation’s military and defense technologies, medical equipment, high-tech electronics and conventional and emerging energy technologies. Sen. Murkowski writes:
“At stake is the future of U.S. manufacturing and the country’s international competitiveness—as illustrated by a September 2014 Edelman Berland survey of 400 manufacturing executives that found that more than 90% worry about mineral supply disruptions outside their control.”
What’s at the heart of the problem? The “notoriously slow federal permitting” that takes seven to 10 years to obtain a mining permit, compared to similar countries with equally strict regulations and environmental standards—like Canada and Australia—where the process only takes two to three years. Because of bureaucratic inefficiencies, permitting delays can cause a mining project to lose over a third of its value, and in some cases, half of its value, according to a recent study by SNL Metals & Mining. “The longer the delay, the greater the investment delay,” says Sen. Murkowski.
To end the U.S.’ foreign dependence and restore its competitiveness as a leader in mining and manufacturing, Congress must pursue mine permitting reform, including the critical minerals provision in Sen. Murkowski’s energy bill, which aims to modernize the U.S. mine permitting system and ensure better access to the country’s vast mineral wealth. Sen. Murkowski explains,
“To slash U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers, we can change course on domestic minerals as we have on oil. The way to start is by building predictability and accountability into the permitting process. That’s the focus of the American Mineral Security Act: improvements that will result from establishing timelines, performance goals and greater transparency.”
Implementing policies like this and opening access to U.S.’ vast minerals reserves will allow our nation to reach its full potential in mining and manufacturing, providing the raw materials to spur our nation’s economic growth.