It’s widely recognized we live in a mineral intensive time. Modern technology in the communication, medical, energy and defense sectors, are more dependent on minerals than ever before. As demand quickly outpaces supply, countries around the globe are racing to secure these raw materials. Canada released its “Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy,” the United Kingdom announced its “Resilience for the future: The UK’s critical minerals strategy” and the European Union unveiled its “REPowerEU Plan.” Yet the U.S. lags behind without a comprehensive mineral strategy and a plan to invigorate its domestic mining industry.
Ignoring growing mineral demands will put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage. By 2040, lithium demand is anticipated to grow by more than 40 times, and graphite, cobalt and nickel demand will likely grow 20-25 times. These are just a few examples.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are a prime example. Automakers all over the country are seeking solutions and many have signed deals directly with mining companies to secure the materials they need to deliver on their promise of electrified fleets. For instance, Tesla partnered with Talon Metals to buy nickel directly from a Minnesota mine.
“Neither the current trajectory of consumer adoption of EVs, nor existing levels of federal support for supply- and demand-side policies, is sufficient to meet our goal of a net-zero carbon transportation future” said the Alliance for Automotive Innovation in a letter to President Biden sent two years ago. Despite the call to action, the U.S. hasn’t seen much forward action.
In fact, the U.S. actually moved backward in mineral development. In addition to continued rejections of permitting reform legislation, the Biden administration also withdrew 225,000 acres in mineral-rich lands in Minnesota.
It is not a lack of resources that’s standing in America’s way – it’s a lack of confidence in our permitting process that has created a lengthy, inefficient permitting timelines. America lags Australia and Canada, two countries with almost identical environmental and safety standards, because it can take up to five times longer to approve a new mine through the permitting process.
This troubling situation not only has the ability to infringe upon the reliability of America’s power grid, but it also slows the speed of electrification and weakens America’s defense against climate challenges. Some recommend a tear down of the General Mining Law to ease our mineral woes, but impact will be the opposite. Instead, we should pass bills like the American Energy Security Act, the Spur Permitting of Underdeveloped Resources (SPUR) Act and the Revitalizing the Economy by Simplifying Timelines and Assuring Regulatory Transparency (RESTART) Act to speed up permitting timelines and get American mining back on track.
You can read my full testimony here.
NMA President and CEO