April 21, 2016
The U.S. Senate passed the “Energy Policy Modernization A...
This is a guest post by Harry Moser, the founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative, an organization dedicated to bringing manufacturing back to American soil to accelerate job growth and support a strong economy.
Since 2000, the U.S. economy has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs and closed more than 50,000 factories. With the economy still struggling to recover, presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle have emphasized the importance of strengthening American manufacturing and bringing jobs back home.
However, one critical aspect remains overlooked—the connection between America’s mining industry and the health of the nation’s manufacturing sector.
It is estimated that young Americans today will depend on 27,416 pounds of iron ore, 978 pounds of copper, 531 pounds of zinc and 1.8 ounces of gold in their lifetime. These minerals are essential to the production of everything from cars to homes to energy sources to high-tech electronics.
Currently, the U.S. is 100 percent import reliant on 19 key minerals and 50 percent import reliant on 24 important mineral resources. However, America is home to $6.2 trillion worth of mineral resources. The issue is not America’s supply of minerals, rather, it is an issue of access to supply. A protracted minerals mine permitting process creates unnecessary delays that inhibit access to U.S. mineral reserves, forcing manufacturers to seek minerals from overseas to meet industry demand. In a 2014 survey, 90 percent of manufacturing executives expressed concern about obtaining critical mineral resources in a timely fashion.
Minerals mining is a significant contributor to the U.S. economy. The U.S. mining industry provides more than 1.3 million jobs, contributes to 15 percent of the nation’s GDP and had an estimated production value in excess of $78.3 billion in 2015. As manufacturing makes a comeback in the U.S. timely access to these critical raw materials is essential. If the U.S. creates a more efficient mine permitting process, the nation could potentially reduce the minerals trade deficit by billions of dollars annually, increase mining employment by nearly 125,000 jobs and fuel widespread economic growth.
On the other hand, if the minerals mining industry is prevented from achieving its full capacity, U.S. manufacturing will also suffer. While we are losing fewer jobs overseas today than we were ten years ago, there are still three to four million well-paying manufacturing jobs that could be reshored.
Policymakers can help return jobs to the U.S. by removing the duplications and inefficiencies that restrain manufacturers. Fortunately, the Senate recently passed Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016,” which includes a provision that will improve access to U.S. minerals. If Washington is serious about supporting manufacturers, our policymakers must collaborate to deliver to the president legislation–like the “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016″–that reforms the nation’s outdated mine permitting process and revitalizes our competitiveness on the global stage.