The Biden Administration’s Two-Faced Approach to Mineral Security

Posted on May 09, 2024 by Minerals Make Life

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What You Need to Know:

  • Last month, the Biden administration made a series of devastating announcements that will significantly impact U.S. ability to deliver domestic minerals needed for the energy transition.
  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a rule that favors locking up resources over the multiple-use doctrine that governs the sustained use of our public lands.
  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) reversed its decision on Alaska’s Ambler Road project.
  • The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a new rule that further complicates the permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
  • Fortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives is standing up for American supply chains with multiple bills this week and last week, and we urge the Senate to join them.

Letter From The President and CEO:

The superstition that bad things come in threes held true in April. Despite its public-facing talk, the Biden administration issued several significant blows to domestic mineral development, stunting or even halting substantial projects in the U.S. that are important to securing our supply chains, using minerals produced with high standards and achieving the administration’s stated goals for the energy transition.

The DOI blocked Alaska’s Ambler Access Project, which would grant roadway access to significant deposits of minerals essential to America’s supply chain. All of the necessary federal agencies had previously approved the project, and this reversal flies in the face of the White House’s plans to secure our mineral supply chains and stated goal to develop projects with input from communities, Tribes and other affected stakeholders. The project has state and local support and would have provided hundreds of high-paying jobs while delivering rare earths, cobalt, copper and other minerals to market.

Following that news, the BLM issued a new rule titled Conservation and Landscape Health, which will impose new restrictions and requirements on federal land use activities. While I wholeheartedly support the goal of conserving treasured public lands, this misguided rule deliberately opens the door for abuse of the areas of critical environmental concern process to create de facto and unauthorized land withdrawals absent any transparency, guardrails or deadlines.

In short, the rule opens the door to legal challenges, delays, and added costs for mineral projects on federal lands. It undermines the General Mining Law, which emphasizes the importance of mineral development for the nation’s economic and national security. It also conflicts with other federal policies and initiatives that aim to enhance America’s mineral security, such as the Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains and the Critical Minerals Strategy.

Finally, the Biden administration’s CEQ issued a new rule that further complicates energy permitting under NEPA, contradicting congressionally enacted provisions. In this rule, the administration has succeeded only in further complicating the permitting process, increasing the financial burden on project sponsors, compounding the potential for litigation delays on projects and ultimately delaying or even halting projects that are valuable to our economic and national security.

The administration claims to want to secure U.S. mineral supply chains yet continues to enact policies that prevent that from happening. These actions hinder the domestic mineral industry, deepening our dependence on foreign sources of minerals and preventing American prosperity.

Fortunately, thoughtful members of the U.S. House of Representatives have had enough and, in the past two weeks, pushed back on these onerous regulations and wrong-headed decisions that only further deepen our mineral insecurity. Specifically:

  • H.R. 2925 – Mining Regulatory Clarity Act of 2024 (Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and Mary Peltola (D-Alaska)) – The bill, in response to an irresponsible 2022 court decision (Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al.) from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, would codify the federal framework under the Mining Law, returning it the way it existed prior to the court decision without expanding mining activities in protected or withdrawn areas. The bill passed by a vote of 216-195.
  • H.R. 3195 – Superior National Forest Restoration Act (Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.)). The bill would rescind the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) unwarranted mineral withdrawal of more than 225,000 acres in Northern Minnesota while also directing the U.S. Forest Service to reissue cancelled mineral leases for the Twin Metals Minnesota project and complete necessary environmental and regulatory reviews for all mine plans of operations within the Superior National Forest within 18 months. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 212 to 203.
  • H.R. 3397 – Western Economic Security Today Act of 2024 (Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah)) – The bill would nullify the Bureau of Land Management’s recently finalized rule titled, Conservation and Landscape Health, which deliberately opens the door for abuse of the areas of critical environmental concern process to create de facto and unauthorized land withdrawals absent any transparency, guardrails or deadlines. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 212 to 202.

I urge the Senate to join the House in its commitment to responsible domestic mining and supply chain security. Let’s stand up for domestic mining and America’s miners, who are ready to deliver the minerals our nation needs.

Thank you,

Rich Nolan
NMA President and CEO

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