Minerals Mining: An American Issue

Posted on October 22, 2020 by Minerals Make Life

The National Mining Association recently partnered with RealClearPolitics (RCP) for a discussion including members of government, think tanks and academia on the problems associated with U.S. overreliance on mineral imports and the underlying lack of support for America’s domestic mining operations. The event occurred shortly after President Trump signed an executive order declaring a national emergency to reinvigorate U.S. mining and reduce America’s dependency on China for critical minerals.

As divisive party politics flood the media, the recent RCP panel event showcased the bipartisan issue of securing American supply chains, with Congressmen Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), co-chairs of the House Critical Materials Caucus, joining together to highlight the problem. Recent action and analysis from the White House, Congress and other bodies of government reveals alarming concern for supply chain security following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In both the public and private sector, the far-reaching negative implications of America’s underdeveloped minerals production has already been realized in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the United States, everyday citizens experienced months of supply shortages for essential items. To protect American interests moving forward, immediate coordinated action is required to overcome steep challenges now confronting U.S. mineral supply chain security. America remains 100% import reliant for 17 key minerals and over 50 percent import dependent on another 29 mineral commodities. Minerals form the bedrock of our national security, manufacturing, energy and medical supply chains.

One sector that has been the focus of concern is energy. The electrification of vehicles requires a whole host of metals such as graphite, lithium, copper and nickel, for the vehicles themselves, their batteries and EV charging stations. This list of key metals is everchanging but many – if not all – can be found in the U.S. This is why members from across the political aisle have joined forces to put an end to the era of import overreliance. Policymakers have an obligation to adjust course before the markets become even more dominated by Chinese-backed operations, that operate with subpar environmental and worker standards.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently visited Rio Tinto’s “Resolution Copper Project” which is expected to supply 20% of U.S. copper demand. The Resolution Copper Mine is in the final permitting stages. Secretary Ross said, “This is critical timing as U.S. manufacturers focus more attentively on re-shoring production in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency and resulting supply chain disruption.”

Geopolitical rivals are getting free reign over the minerals-backed markets of the next century while permitting delays stifle our chances of working towards American minerals independence. Where investors would seek new opportunities on U.S. soil, they confront lengthy permitting approvals that can take up to 10 years while other markets, with similar environmental and safety standards, move permits in a fraction of the time. America has no choice but to develop a comprehensive strategy to remove barriers to greater domestic mineral production and regain its critical supply chains.

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