February 13, 2024
The United States faces deep, ongoing vulnerabilities in its mine...
Mineral supply chains are increasingly stressed and control of essential resources is alarmingly concentrated in the hands of just a few nations or in notably unstable regions of the world. Demand is quickly outpacing supply, posing escalating energy and national security concerns and threatening the deployment of a range of advanced energy technologies. In response, nations across the globe are working to boost domestic mining while also partnering with allies to secure their supply chains.
While the Biden administration is working with urgency to support overseas mining and establish mineral parternships, remarkably, the same urgency is notably missing at home. In fact, rather than looking for ways to reduce barriers to domestic production and address the nation’s mine permitting delays, the administration has actually recommended a host of new barriers and burdens.
Early last year, the administration announced a special working group, “The Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Mining Reform,” formed to assess the challenges facing domestic mining and work across government, industry and other key stakeholders to “promote the sustainable and responsible domestic production of critical minerals.” The IWG provided a golden opportunity to problem solve and create a clear path forward to responsibly ramp up domestic mineral production. Instead, it achieved just the opposite.
The IWG released its Recommendations to Improve Mining on Public Lands in September 2023, a report packed with one recommendation after another that will make mining more difficult and far more costly while all but dismissing well-established concerns about the nation’s duplicative and delay-ridden permitting process. Nothing could be less helpful in addressing the nation’s alarming mineral import reliance or more counterproductive to building the secure, responsible mineral supply chains we need.
The recommendations ignore the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which requires the implementation of specific permitting improvements by November 15, 2022, and was signed into law by President Biden. The IWG report provides no direction on this growing issue nor does it address how it will bring to fruition the National Environmental Policy Act’s permitting improvements included in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
But most troubling of all, the working group proposed upending the nation’s foundational mining law, overhauling how the nation governs mining, and potentially imposing an 8 percent royalty on miners along with a dirt tax that would cost miners hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Bipartisan concern over these recommendations has been swift and loud. While Congress is likely to block the worst of these proposals, the signal to mining companies and investors cooldn’t have been worse.
President and CEO of NMA
The Biden administration’s IWG recommendations on mining completely miss the mark. The U.S. should be strengthening American mining, not weakening it. We have the resources – now we need the policies that allow us to develop them. There was great hope that the IWG’s recommendations would pave the way for increased access to our nation’s resources and mark a turning point in finally forcefully addressing our mineral import overrealiance. Instead of a much-needed leap forward, this report was a decisive step backwards.