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On Mining Investment, the United States is Dead Last

by sharon koss / /

While environmental protection is an important concern in the development of our nation’s natural resources, excessive regulations have suppressed expansion of our critical minerals industry and sent jobs overseas.  In a study of the 25 leading mining countries, the United States has tied with Papua New Guinea for last place in terms of delays involved in obtaining a mining permit:

Permitting delays are the most significant risk to mining projects in the United States. A few mining friendly states (Nevada, Utah, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arizona) are an exception to this rule but are negatively impacted by federal rules that they are bound to enforce resulting in a 7- to 10-year waiting period before mine development can begin. 

This red tape essentially offers energy business on a platter to other countries, namely China.  Many of these elements which America is forced to import could be provided through domestic mining if redundant regulations didn’t discourage development. The Natural Resources Committee in the house began looking into this issue in 2011 when it referred to a U.S. Geological Survey which reported that:

The U.S. is 100% dependent on foreign sources for rare earth elements (REE), 97% of which are provided by China... the USGS released a report revealing 13 million metric tons of REEs exist within known deposits in 14 U.S. states.

In February 2013, Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV), along with 57 cosponsors, proposed H.R. 761, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013, in order to address this issue.

Although many of these minerals are necessary for the president’s green energy goals, Obama still refuses to allow efficient development of domestic minerals and asks legislators to strongly oppose H.R. 761 in the name of environmental protection.

A similar scenario is playing out on the Outer Continental Shelf and across many federal lands where onerous regulations and permitting processes keep our natural resources tied up in red tape. Whether those resources are essential minerals or equally essential energy, the solution is still the same, as NTU’s Executive Vice President Pete Sepp explained:

Instead of picking winners and losers in the industry, we believe officials should pursue a policy that applies low, simple taxes … avoids government subsidies, and eases regulations that stand in the way of developing new resources.

With employment numbers still stubbornly low, Washington should be easing the path for economic development and job growth, not throwing up roadblocks for job creators. Let’s hope the House moves H.R. 761 forward quickly to help get vital investments out of permitting purgatory.