The U.S. is at a mining crossroads. The demand for minerals that make electric vehicle batteries, new energy technologies, and infrastructure improvements possible is growing exponentially, but our supplies and policies are lagging.
According to a recent report from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, over 300 new mines could be needed over the next decade just to meet the demand for EV batteries; absent immediate permitting reform, those mines will be located outside of the U.S., creating jobs elsewhere and securing the supply chains of both our geopolitical allies and foes. This highlights the significant gap between the commitments made to deliver infrastructure upgrades and our ability to deliver on those commitments.
For decades the U.S. has relied on a supply of imported materials and minerals while China and Russia have steadily gained a stronger foothold in these critical supply chains. We’re now beholden to these countries for the very materials we need to deliver affordable energy, newer technologies like solar and wind energy, and to repair our aging roads and bridges. It’s time we tap into the $6.2 trillion worth of minerals we have right here at home.
This month, policymakers in the House and Senate may have an opportunity to back up these commitments with real action. By improving the federal permitting process that every major energy and infrastructure project must adhere to, policymakers can begin to strengthen America’s supply chains and global competitiveness.
At present, the permitting process is notoriously slow, filled with duplicative reviews and lengthy timelines, and fraught with legal action that delays important projects. To address these challenges, reform should support concurrent agency review, the designation of a lead agency in the permitting process and the establishment of a permitting shot clock for reviews. These measures, paired with efforts to set a statute of limitations for legal challenges, can facilitate much-needed streamlining while maintaining world-leading environmental standards.
One thing is clear: we cannot wait any longer to address permitting delays. It takes anywhere from seven to 10 years to approve a new mining project and often longer to identify a sizable mineral deposit to produce. While a single piece of legislation will not fix our energy and infrastructure woes, it can be a step in the right direction.
We must act now to ensure we don’t remain reliant on our geopolitical adversaries for the materials necessary for our economic growth. Policymakers need to implement commonsense reforms that will provide certainty concerning decision timelines and ensure the U.S. secures the necessary investment it needs for energy and mining projects right here at home.
If you agree, take action here.
NMA President and CEO