Why the U.S. Needs Mine Permitting Reform
May 23, 2023
Nearly two decades ago, the U.S. attracted almost 20 percent of t...
In May, grocery and gas prices soared as inflation hit a 40-year high in the U.S., pinching Americans’ already tight wallets. High energy prices and continued supply chain woes have complicated the Biden administration’s attempts to transition our energy portfolio to support its climate commitments. But in the midst of the chaos one thing is clear: the success of our future energy transition rests on a robust supply of minerals. The U.S. could face years of supply chain shortages and disruptions if we continue business as usual – letting our overreliance on mineral imports grow – with minerals now so essential to every future energy technology, from electric vehicles (EVs) to solar panels and wind energy.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused an ongoing energy crisis for many E.U. countries due to the same kind of overreliance that experts warn about with mineral imports in the U.S. Like Russia’s control of LNG exports to Europe, countries like China have a similar control over American mineral supply chains.
The U.S. relies on China for 16 critical minerals – including rare earths and lithium – that will define our electric vehicle manufacturing capabilities. The International Energy Agency warns that having minerals production and processing concentrated with only a handful of sources – mainly China – will inevitably lead to higher mineral prices resulting in higher prices for electric vehicles, solar panels and wind energy.
Despite an estimated $6.2 trillion in mineral reserves, Americans imported $90 billion worth of minerals in 2021 alone. New findings from Bank of America show that international investment in mining (CAPEX) is far below where it should be to meet expected mineral demands for our energy future. It’s mission critical that policymakers recognize a stable mineral supply as a safeguard against foreign competition and subsequent interference with our energy transition.
The White House and Congress are aware of the issue, but more action is needed. A year after issuing its supply chain assessment, the White House released a fact sheet including funding for various R&D ventures, made commitments to improve our defense minerals stockpile, and formed the Department of Interior’s Interagency Working Group (IWG) on mining. The following month, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to increase access to battery minerals. Despite these apparent signals of progress, the White House has allowed additional restrictions on mineral rich lands and has even revoked permits for important minerals projects in the U.S. Each day, our country falls further behind the competition.
The challenges we face today are complex and can’t be solved overnight. But right now, there are steps policymakers can take to improve the situation and support U.S. mining. Charged with recommending mining reforms to Congress, the IWG is currently accepting comments to the Department of Interior’s Request for Information through the end of August.
You can submit a comment on what reforms will best serve the interests of all Americans.