As the need for clean-energy technologies grows, putting upward pressure on the prices of certain minerals and rare-earth metals, it’s time to reconsider a national mining policy increasingly at odds with itself.
On the one hand, most experts recognize minerals and rare-earth metals as crucial to the advancement of carbon-free renewable energy technology, and they endorse giving mining companies greater access to mineral resources on public lands in the western United States. On the other, a painfully slow permitting process requires companies to gain overlapping approval from multiple federal and state agencies. The process in the U.S. takes approximately seven to 10 years, five times longer than countries with comparable environmental standards such as Canada and Australia, and is driving investors overseas.
Last year, American companies spent more than $7 billion on imports of minerals, including many minerals needed for technological improvements in wind and solar power and energy storage batteries. Our dependence on foreign minerals has doubled in the past 20 years, and we are now import-dependent for half or all of 50 key mineral commodities, from aluminum to zinc, platinum to chromium, rare earths to lithium, which are essential for consumer products but also for national defense and technological research.
Read the full op-ed here.