House lawmakers tackle critical minerals
Introduce bill to foster domestic production of tech metals Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – June 3, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 6:17am
House Republicans have introduced legislation aimed at breaking the United States' dependence on foreign countries such as China for the minerals and metals critical to high-tech, renewable energy and other sectors of America's economy.
Introduced by U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), the American Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act of 2020 includes mine permitting reform, advanced critical minerals development strategies and technologies, and other measures aimed at fostering responsible domestic mineral development.
"This bill tackles impediments to domestic critical mineral development including inefficiencies in the federal permitting process and shortsighted mineral withdrawals, and also promotes technological advancements such as minerals recycling," said Gosar. "Our need for critical minerals will skyrocket in the coming decades, especially as demand for renewable energy and battery storage increases. That demand can only be met with new mining and new resources, the American Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act will help us meet this challenge head on."
The lawmakers said COVID-19 has highlighted the vulnerabilities related to U.S. dependence on global supply chains for its critical minerals and other needs.
"From healthcare to electronics and our defense systems, critical minerals are integral to our way of life. Unfortunately, China currently has a stronghold on the supply of these natural resources. As coronavirus has unfortunately demonstrated, if China can threaten to cut off our pharmaceutical supply, they can do the same with their supply of rare earth minerals. We need to bring this supply chain back to America – and this bill will be an important step to do that," said Waltz.
The U.S. Geological Survey has identified 35 minerals and metals critical to America's economy and national security. According to a recent USGS report, the U.S. is 100% dependent on imports for 14 of these mined commodities. This list includes many of the high-tech minerals and metals needed for renewable energy, electric vehicles, consumer electronics, metal devises, and military hardware – gallium, graphite, indium, manganese, niobium, rare earth elements and tantalum are among these elements not mined in the U.S.
House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (R-Utah), House Committee on Space, Science, and Technology Ranking Republican Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have joined Waltz and Gosar in moving their critical minerals legislation through Congress and onto President Trump's desk.
"The world has paid a costly price for China's dangerous missteps on how they have handled this pandemic. The Chinese Communist Party hid the severity of the virus, manipulated statistics, and still refuses to allow international experts to investigate or share viral samples with the scientific community. What this health crisis has also exposed is our dangerous dependence on China when it comes to our supply chain," said McCarthy. "The American Critical Minerals Exploration and Innovation Act will make sure our country continues to become stronger on the other side of this pandemic and will help us follow through on a national commitment to put America's energy future into our own hands."
The American Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act of 2020 has five primary components aimed at accomplishing this objective:
• Permitting reform: It currently takes seven to 10 years to permit a new mine in the U.S., while Canada and Australia can accomplish the same feat in roughly two to three years. To maximize the federal permitting process in the U.S., this legislation directs the lead agency permitting a critical minerals project to establish clear and quantifiable performance goals; adhere to permitting timelines; engage and collaborate with stakeholders early in the process; and other metrics aimed at shortening the permitting timeline. This bill also allows for a sufficiency determination under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and establishes a framework for a memorandum of agreement between all parties to ensure timeliness and certainty.
• Critical mineral designations: Prioritizing the establishment of a clear strategy for reducing U.S. dependence on adversaries, this legislation directs the Secretary of the Interior to identify vulnerabilities in the minerals supply chain and periodically update a list of critical minerals to inform U.S. policy.
• Support innovation at mining schools: The bill establishes a grant program for research, and demonstration projects related to spurring critical minerals innovation at U.S. mining schools and programs.
• Managing mineral resources: The bill also directs the USGS to complete updated resource assessments for each critical mineral, as well as requiring that mineral resource assessments are considered in the land management process. The legislation would also require Congress approval for any large, unilateral mineral withdrawals in the U.S.
"Critical minerals power technologies ranging from cell phones to medical equipment to renewable energy storage. China holds an overwhelming advantage in access to critical minerals and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it dangerously clear that we can't take our supply for granted," said Lucas. "We need to be forward-thinking about how we develop our resources and manage our access to critical minerals. I'm proud to join my colleagues on this bill which not only helps secure our supply of critical minerals, but also accelerates research into critical minerals development and technologies."
More information on critical minerals and metals, as well as other federal initiatives aimed at spurring domestic production of them can be found at USGS report informs critical mineral policy in the March 8 edition of Metal Tech News.