RICH NOLAN – President and CEO of National Mining Association
There is an alarming disconnect between the Biden administration’s rhetoric on America’s minerals challenge and the policy needed to address it. The mismatch between soaring mineral demand and our unsustainable reliance on overseas suppliers — notably China — is a clear danger in need of urgent action.
The president’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has warned that mineral supply chains are “at risk of being weaponized in the same way as oil in the 1970s, or natural gas in Europe in 2022.”
John Podesta, the White House’s lead energy adviser, recently said, “It’s just clear, to say it directly, that China has too much of a chokehold on critical minerals.”
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm told the International Energy Agency that “the fuel of this energy transition — critical minerals — is going to make global energy security infinitely more complex and infinitely more important over the next few decades.”
Granholm has also called for increased domestic mineral production to help meet the challenge. Last year, she told an energy conference that she was going to work to streamline the permitting process. She declared, “It takes forever to get a new permit. How crazy is that?”
Brian Deese — until recently President Biden’s lead economic advisor — recently wrote an op-ed on the China minerals threat in which he said, “Permitting laws will need to be reformed in order to expand domestic mining and processing of lithium, copper, and rare earths.”
There’s real urgency for action from the administration. And yet there’s also a bizarre refusal to advance domestic mining projects that could help to defang China’s minerals arsenal and secure America’s supply chains. Along with land withdrawals and blocked mines, the Biden administration has formally recommended raising a host of new barriers to domestic production.
The recently released recommendations from the Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group (IWG) on mining — an effort more than a year in the making that was supposed to find solutions to America’s minerals challenge — is an astonishing gift to China.
Rather than addressing the laundry list of U.S. mining projects that remain stalled in legal challenges or duplicative stages of permitting and environmental review, the IWG report proposes upending the nation’s foundational mining law, overhauling how the nation governs mining, and imposing potentially an 8 percent royalty on miners — along with a dirt tax that will cost miners hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
It’s impossible to see how such proposals can move the ball forward in building the mineral supply chains our nation so dearly needs.
Even if some of the most egregious recommendations are stopped in Congress — where there is strong bipartisan opposition to what has been proposed — this report has gone over like a lead balloon with mining companies and investors.
The U.S. is quickly becoming an outlier among peer nations in how we treat our vast domestic mineral resources. Canada, Australia, the U.K. and even the European Union have all released roadmaps to ramp up domestic mineral production. They’re working with urgency to streamline mine permitting and reduce the regulatory burden on the mining industry while providing incentives to encourage production of the minerals that will underpin the energy transition.
The obstructionist policies proposed in the U.S. couldn’t be more different.
For all the rhetoric from the administration about the need to address the minerals challenge, the Biden administration has become the greatest impediment to actually doing so. There can be no mineral and supply chain security — no meeting the enormous mineral demand at our doorstep — without fundamental recognition that we need more domestic mining and the policy to achieve it.
Rich Nolan serves as President and CEO for the National Mining Association.