On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei’s H.R. 761, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, 246-178. Now, let’s see what Nevada’s Harry Reid does with it in the Senate. He’s thrown a few monkey wrenches before.
This legislation would allow the United States to more efficiently develop strategic and critical minerals, such as rare earths.
“Nevada, which is rich in strategic and critical minerals, also has the highest unemployment rate in the nation,” Amodei said. “Decade-long permitting delays stand in the way of high-paying jobs and revenue for local communities. This bill would not change environmental regulations or public input. It would streamline the permitting process to leverage our nation’s vast mineral resources, while paying due respect to economic, national security, and environmental concerns.”
Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington commented, “President Obama routinely talks about wanting to create American jobs but his Administration continues to stand in the way of job creation with excessive red-tape and regulation, especially when it comes to mining strategic and critical minerals in America. Right now, it can take up to 10 years for the federal government to issue permits to mine these minerals that are vital to America’s manufacturing sector. This is unacceptable and forces the U.S. to rely almost entirely on countries like China for these minerals.”
Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming commented, “Right now, nearly all of our rare earth minerals are imported from countries like China. These minerals are used in our everyday devices, from cell phones to medical equipment, and are also necessary for national defense and manufacturing. This near total and dangerous dependence on others for our critical minerals is senseless. We have much of the minerals we need right here in Wyoming. Unfortunately we also have truckloads of red tape that we don’t need. Among the top 25 mining countries in the world, the United States ranks last, right alongside Papua New Guinea in mine permit delays. The bi-partisan National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013 will help us cut through this red tape to restore the many mining jobs that have fled overseas, enhance our independence and national defense, and secure critical materials for U.S. manufacturing.”
The bill specifically:
- Requires the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture to more efficiently develop domestic sources of strategic and critical minerals and mineral materials; including rare earth elements.
- Defines strategic and critical minerals as those that are necessary:
- For national defense and national security requirements;
- For the Nation’s energy infrastructure including pipelines, refining capacity, electrical power generation and transmission, and renewable energy production;
- To support domestic manufacturing, agriculture, housing, telecommunications, healthcare and transportation infrastructure; or
- For the Nation’s economic security and balance of trade.
- Facilitates a timely permitting process for mineral exploration projects by clearly defining the responsibilities of a lead agency.
- Sets the total review process for issuing permits to 30 months.
- Ensures American mining projects are not indefinitely delayed by frivolous lawsuits by setting reasonable time limits for litigation.
- Sets a 60-day time limit to file a legal challenge to a mining project, gives standing to project proponents, and limits injunctive relief to what is necessary to correct the violation of a legal requirement, and prohibits the payment of attorney’s fees, expenses and other costs by the U.S. taxpayer.
- Respects and upholds all environmental laws while setting timelines that ensure these laws do not become tools for lawsuits or bureaucrats to block or delay responsible projects.
Chances of the bill passing in the Senate appear dim since a previous incarnation of Amodei’s legislation died in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 2012.