New U.S. Dept. of Commerce Report Stresses Need For Mining Reform

Posted on June 11, 2019 by Minerals Make Life

A new U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) report recommends immediate action to ensure a reliable supply of minerals in the U.S. The report is the culmination of months of collaborative work with various U.S. agencies in response to Executive Order (EO) 13817, “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.”

Currently, it can take anywhere from seven to 10 years to obtain a mine permit in the U.S. Permitting delays impair and discourage investment in domestic mining, with one report showing that a mining project’s value can be reduced by a third due to delays. Despite being home to abundant mineral resources, less than half of the minerals U.S. manufacturers need are sourced domestically.

The DOC report underscored the risk factors associated with our import reliance: “The United States is heavily dependent on foreign sources of critical minerals and on foreign supply chains resulting in the potential for strategic vulnerabilities to both our economy and military.”

To solve these problems, the mining industry believes our outdated permitting system could be streamlined through processes such as:

  • Avoiding duplicative reviews: the lead agency shall defer to and rely on baseline data, analyses and reviews performed by state agencies with jurisdiction over the proposed project.
  • Concurrent reviews: federal agencies should conduct any consultations or reviews concurrently rather than sequentially to expedite the process.
  • Establish timelines for each major step of the process including scoping of the analysis; baseline studies required under applicable law and use of existing studies already conducted for state or federal authorizations; draft EIS or similar analysis under NEPA; submission and review of public and agency comments; publication of any required public notices; and final decisions.
  • Directives clearly setting forth that the permitting agency is not required to consider or respond to comments received after the close of any comment period.
  • Encourage use of Memorandums of Agreement between the agencies and project proponents that will set goals and timelines for each step of the process.

To help secure our nation’s supply chains, our decisionmakers must take action to ensure that the DOC’s recommendations are implemented swiftly. Learn more about the new report here.

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