There’s a growing chasm between the ongoing energy transition and the availability of the minerals that are essential to its success. Unfortunately, we are hearing more about U.S. deals to source minerals overseas than we are about mining projects being approved here at home.
America’s growing domestic mineral needs have led us to the highest mineral reliance in our country’s history. Despite having $6.2 trillion in mineral reserves within our own soil, the U.S. continues to import roughly $6 billion in metals every year. While the gap between what’s available and what’s required is obvious, little has been done to confront the foundational issue: without major changes to the current permitting process, it could be decades before we can tap into our abundant domestic reserves to produce the minerals our manufacturing sector sorely needs.
The Biden administration has repeatedly messaged around America’s mineral production challenges – and, for the most part, shows an understanding of the enormity of the challenge – but various agencies continue to make decisions that make us more dependent on foreign minerals and weaken our economic outlook. Instead of encouraging the development of domestic mineral resources, the Department of the Interior withdrew hundreds of thousands of acres of mineral-rich lands from potential mining. And the Environmental Protection Agency issued a preemptive veto of a mining project in Alaska, which also more broadly blocks any future development across a broader area vastly exceeding the size of the proposed mine. Overlooking promising minerals projects here in the U.S., the administration has focused only on mineral agreements with allies like Canada, the EU, the UK and Japan; in one instance, pursuing an agreement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Indonesia to counter China’s control of EV battery mineral supply chains. These decisions provide temporary, short-term band-aids for an immediate material demand surge, but ignore long-term, systemic supply chain problems that could be solved right here at home.
Policymakers should recognize that the speed and economic feasibility of our sustainable future is and will continue to be defined by the strength, scale and speed of U.S. domestic mining operations. To meet an anticipated 1,000 percent increase in mineral demands, we need an all-of-the-above mineral strategy that begins with domestic mining, in addition to coordinating with allies, metals recycling, investing in new mining practices and upskilling the mining workforce. This starts with passing the permitting reform necessary to expand America’s mining operations. To learn more about what needs to happen, read my recent testimony here.
NMA President and CEO