America’s military capabilities depend on a stable and robust supply of minerals. The Department of Defense (DOD) uses up to 750,000 tons of minerals annually when manufacturing military gear, weapon systems and other defense applications. However, those minerals are increasingly dependent on nations such as China and Russia, placing U.S. national defense and the men and women who defend our freedom in a precarious situation.
To address our foreign reliance, the DOD is actively awarding grant and loan resources to American companies mining the minerals essential to its operations. The DOD awarded $15 million to Perpetua Resources so the U.S. can enjoy a fully independent antimony trisulphide supply chain that will be used to support America’s munitions. Domestic nickel and lithium supply chains are also seeing increased defense funding. As a response to China’s recently imposed export restrictions on graphite, the DOD entered into a $37.5 million agreement with Graphite One to strengthen American graphite supply chains. Working to build out production of this mineral – and many others – is essential not just to American mineral security, but to our national security, and this kind of support for domestic capacity is a strong first step that we would like to see replicated at potential projects across the country.
Outside the DOD, however, progress has been less apparent. The Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group (IWG) Recommendations to Improve Mining on Public Lands report was sorely disappointing. Where we hoped to see permitting reform and support for domestic mines, instead we saw new taxes and royalties that will discourage companies from starting new projects.
In another misstep, the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) has issued a proposed rule to limit the types of mineral projects available under the FAST-41 permitting process. This new rule – if adopted – would further hinder domestic mining projects. All minerals are essential to our economic and national security and should be considered under the expedited permitting process.
On the supply chain front, the administration desperately needs to reprioritize. The U.S. should be focusing first on mining here at home, where we have abundant and untapped reserves, and where we know mining will be done in accordance with the world’s strongest environmental and labor standards. Instead, we see an almost singular focus on the pursuit of a wide range of trade agreements that appear to sidestep Congress’ traditional role in trade. Our minerals security challenge requires a multi-pronged approach, but it must be based on the foundation of domestic mining.
In November, as we celebrate Veterans Day and consider the importance of our national security and the military capability that ensures it, I hope U.S. policymakers will consider the grave consequences of inaction when addressing our mineral supply chains. A strong national defense depends on a strong domestic mining sector capable of supplying its needs.
NMA President and CEO