This month the U.S. General Mining Law celebrates its 150th anniversary. The law governs how hardrock minerals such as copper, gold, silver, lithium, cobalt, zinc, nickel, rare earths and other minerals are accessed and produced on federal lands. These minerals and others are essential to batteries, electric vehicles and other technologies that will help the U.S. advance its bold climate goals.
With mineral demands skyrocketing, some policymakers on Capitol Hill are introducing legislation that would add new duplicative regulations and punitive fees to U.S. minerals mining, endangering U.S. competitiveness and our future energy transition. The proposals from Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ) and Senator Heinrich (D-NM) are extensions of previously failed attempts to impinge on U.S. mining’s access to federal lands and to place new fees or royalties of up to 12.5 percent and eight percent on new and existing mining operations, respectively.
This legislation would obstruct President Biden’s stated goals to reestablish U.S. mineral supply chains and assert U.S. leadership in the clean energy future. The U.S. has become dangerously dependent on imported minerals from unstable regions of the world. In 2021, this list included materials from countries including China, Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Instead of impeding domestic production, policymakers should take steps to make U.S. minerals mining more competitive, increasing the domestic production that already occurs under world class environmental and labor standards. Despite claims to the contrary, the General Mining Law is complemented by exhaustive federal and state environmental, ecological, reclamation and financial assurance laws and regulations to ensure that operations fully protect public health and safety, the environment, and wildlife.
As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the general mining law we should remember how the law has served the nation’s economic and national security interests, providing the necessary minerals and metals for our growing economy. Policymakers should build on its success, enabling future generations to benefit from our abundance of mineral resources.
Through bipartisan efforts, our country can regain control of our economic, national and energy security without jeopardizing the mining foundation of our country. Read our latest blog to learn how.