July 29, 2015
National Mining Association’s President and CEO Hal Quinn...
Courtney Young, department head and professor of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at Montana Tech, recently praised Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) inclusion of critical mineral legislation in her comprehensive energy bill, the “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015”. In Montana’s Billings Gazette, Young explains that Sen. Murkowski’s bill, which includes provisions to modernize the U.S.’ lengthy and inefficient mine permitting process, “will help unlock access to our wealth of resources that fuel energy technologies” and “is a win for our local communities, our state and the rest of the country.”
Home to the Billings Stillwater mine—the U.S.’ only producer of platinum group metals— Montana has a rich supply of copper, molybdenum, gold and platinum group metals, which are “essential to our nation’s broader energy needs and are used in catalytic converters, which decrease harmful emissions from automobiles, as well as in hydrogen purification and petroleum refining,” Young explains. Furthermore, Young says Montana has an ample wealth of copper, which “plays a critical role in many energy technologies including the production of wind turbines.”
Despite Montana’s contributions to the nation’s energy needs, the state is victim to protracted delays in the U.S.’ mine permitting process. These delays keep much of Montana’s mineral wealth locked underground. The U.S.’ current permitting process, which can take up to ten years to obtain a mining permit, discourages investors and mining companies from breaking ground in mineral rich states like Montana because, according to a recent report by SNL Metals & Mining, the longer a mining project is delayed the more it reduces in value. Moreover, a typical mining project loses more than one-third of its value as a result of bureaucratic delays in receiving the permits needed to begin production. This leaves many mining projects stuck in the development phase, leaving the mineral resources the nation needs buried underground. “Even with our rich minerals supply,” Young says, “only one percent of Montana’s mineral deposits are in production.”
Additionally, delays in U.S. mine permitting stunts job growth and economic progress in Montana, as well as the U.S., Young explains:
“Improving efficiency in the mine permitting process will also benefit our state economy. As of June, mining supported 9,100 jobs in Montana. Currently, mining employment in Montana is expected to grow 2.3 percent from 2017 to 2024, the second highest industry growth rate behind professional and technical services. With a more efficient permitting system those projections would only increase to create more higher paying jobs for Montanans and further access to a domestic supply of needed minerals for our manufacturing industry.”
If Sen. Murkowski’s bill is passed, more jobs will be brought to the state of Montana, as well as the rest of the country, and the nation will have easier access to the critical minerals needed to support the energy sector and boost U.S. manufacturing.