President Biden delivered his annual State of the Union address on March 1 amid Russia’s war on Ukraine and ongoing supply chain challenges. The President reaffirmed commitments to rejuvenating America’s industrial base and infrastructure and advancing ambitious goals for achieving emissions reductions through transportation electrification. The success of these initiatives depends on our ability to develop a reliable, domestic source of minerals.
This year’s USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries report shows U.S. mineral import reliance increased over the last year and has more than doubled in the past two decades. As of last year, the United States was 100 percent import dependent for 17 minerals, and over 50 percent reliant for another 30 minerals, an increase from 2020. The report shows China as the leading supplier for 16 minerals deemed “critical” by the U.S., essential for producing electric vehicles, wind turbines and other technologies central to the administration’s climate goals.
While alarming, these findings are the latest in a 20-year trend of net imports that cost our country roughly $90 billion last year alone. Within President Biden’s first 100 days in office, a review of supply chains vulnerabilities showed the detrimental effects our import reliance has on the U.S. economy.
The private sector, international NGOs and even the U.S. Department of Defense are all calling for action to ensure a stable source of minerals and in his State of the Union address, the President emphasized the need to make things in America. And still, this urgency has yet to be translated into actual projects or new mining permits. On the contrary, just in the last few weeks, the administration proposed a roughly 20-year withdrawal of more than 220,000 acres of mineral-rich lands in Minnesota, revoked Twin Metals’ leases for developing U.S. copper and nickel resources, and moved to revisit the approval of the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Road project in Alaska.
Minerals and metals are fundamental to the U.S. economy, sitting at the forefront of numerous supply chains for every sector of the economy. At present, mining contributes approximately $3.32 trillion to our national gross domestic product (GDP) and in 2021, Arizona, Nevada, Minnesota and Utah each produced more than $2 billion worth of nonfuel minerals that are supporting EVs, clean energy and future technologies.
The U.S. needs a comprehensive, all-the-above mineral supply chain strategy which includes embracing increased domestic mining and addressing mine permitting delays. It’s impossible to meet growing demands by working solely through our allies or simply ramping up mineral recycling efforts. According to a recent study, it would take a three-fold increase in recycling efforts to meet half of the lithium demand by 2030. For the President to achieve his stated goals, the U.S. must make real investments in U.S. mining operations and reform the mine permitting process that delays important projects. This will help secure U.S. supply chains and help create U.S. jobs rather than strengthen China’s industrial dominance.
It’s time to support domestic mining operations and invest in more production of minerals and processing here at home. The more we focus on sourcing minerals in America, the more economically competitive our country will become.
For more on the importance of domestic mining, click here.
NMA President and CEO