As 2022 starts, one thing is abundantly clear: the U.S. economy, our drive to electrify the economy and ambition to lead the electric vehicle future will continue to drive the demand for minerals ever higher. The U.S. minerals mining industry is on the cusp of a decades-long mining renaissance, ushered in with increased demands for minerals-based materials that feed into every aspect of modern life. Now more than ever, the strength of U.S. minerals supply chains will dictate our ability to address climate change, deploy battery-powered transportation, rebuild our infrastructure and connect online.
Alongside our personal new year’s goals for 2022, let’s encourage policymakers to strengthen our domestic minerals supply chain as part of America’s resolutions.
For years, the U.S. has steadily increased its dependence on other countries for minerals that American companies and jobs depend on. The administration’s infrastructure package is now law and is set to take shape in the form of new construction projects across the country. From steel beams to copper wiring to EV batteries, American mining operations can help supply the materials needed for the foundation. Where bridges, highways and ports need repairs, there should be an emphasis on rebuilding the county beginning from the mine up.
At the end of last year, the White House released its Electric Vehicle Charging Action Plan which highlighted the importance of strengthening domestic supply chains to compete with China through an American-made EV fleet. Currently, China is the leading producer and/or supplier of 66 percent of mineral commodities listed as essential to U.S. economic and national security including lithium, rare earths and other battery metals. Without a stable source of these minerals, American companies remain beholden to imports. As part of the administration’s energy commitments, there must be a collaborative effort between American automakers, mining companies and public officials to secure these minerals supply chains with domestically-produced materials.
The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change in the U.S. mining industry. Minerals mining operations are adapting to new ways of working and investing in smart mining technologies that provide for a safer and more efficient production process. When policymakers prioritize minerals mined in the U.S., it sends a clear message that what ends up in the hands of American consumers is made from minerals produced under world-leading environmental, labor and safety standards.
From development through reclamation, a major mining project on federal lands can involve dozens and dozens – or more – of federal, state and local permits, and can often take seven to 10 years to secure all the permits necessary to mine, compared to the two or three years it takes in countries like Canada and Australia. By increasing coordination and reducing duplication between federal and state agencies, setting and adhering to schedules for permit reviews, and transparently tracking progress to provide accountability, the U.S. can streamline the permitting process and keep America competitive.
For too long, policymakers have entertained the idea that U.S. mineral supply chains can be sustained through working with allied countries, recycling or innovation alone. While these are all important, they must be factored into a long-term strategy that centers around what we produce at home.
Now with higher public awareness than ever before, policymakers can work together to update the policies that impede domestic production.
To learn more about why mining should be a national priority, click here.
NMA President and CEO