House Republican leaders on Thursday will introduce permit reform legislation that aims to support the nation’s critical mining supply chain and increase energy independence.
The Securing American Mineral Supply Chains Act, led by House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., Would simplify the authorization and approval processes for hard rock mining projects across the country. Minerals such as lithium, cobalt, copper and nickel are vital for both clean energy and defense technologies, but are largely mined and refined overseas.
“We are blessed with those deposits here in the US and we are simply not developing them,” Westerman told FOX Business in an interview. “It would be one thing if we didn’t have these mineral deposits here in the United States and we had to buy them from people like China, but the fact is, we have the things we need here.”
“This ‘not in my backyard’ ideology that the left seems to be pushing is something we need to change course on,” he continued. “We cannot continue to export our wealth to China and Russia.”
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Westerman’s bill – which Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., A member of the House Energy and Trade Commission ranking, co-sponsored – would designate a single federal agency to coordinate mining permits, set time limits for approval, ban reversals on existing mining permits, promote new research to increase domestic production, and order the Department of Energy to create a strategic uranium reserve that reduces dependence on Russia for the element.
The legislation essentially aims to reduce uncertainty for companies and investors involved in mining projects.
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“You have jobs in the mining industry and you also have further processing,” Westerman said. “The bill addresses obstacles that are banning jobs in both areas.”
“We already do mining better than anywhere else in the world, but we want to stay ahead and perfect these techniques in mining and processing.”
However, China mines about 55% of global mineral resources and refines a whopping 85%, according to a White House supply chain report last year. The United States, by comparison, last year only extracted 6% of global copper supplies, 5.7% of global zinc supplies, 0.67% of global nickel supplies, 0.4% of global cobalt supplies and 0% of global graphite supplies.
According to Westerman and industry groups, onerous licensing processes and environmental reviews backed by Democrats and green groups have prevented the country from increasing supplies of minerals. The Biden administration has revoked approval or introduced roadblocks for large mining projects in Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota and Nevada since he took office, citing various environmental and wildlife protections.
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Natural Resources President Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., And Senator Martin Heinrich, DN.M., introduced legislation in May that would increase restrictions on mining despite their individual support for clean energy and transition. green from fossil fuels. The bill was supported by several environmental groups who also support green energy efforts.
“If you go back and look at the Build Back Better Act, the same bill that said we had to electrify everything and take out fossil fuels, build electric cars and they had all these incentives to decarbonise the grid,” said Westerman FOX Business. “That exact same bill contained provisions such as the closure of the Resolution copper mine in Superior, Arizona, which could supply 20% of US copper demand for the next 50 years.”
“They would have spent $ 350 million in taxpayer dollars to close a mine that invested $ 2 billion,” he added.
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Meanwhile, Senate Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin, DW.Va., unveiled his own permit bill Wednesday evening that will seek to accelerate energy projects, including fossil fuel infrastructure. Manchin said the bill will apply to government funding legislation that Congress must pass by the end of the month to avoid a closure.
However, dozens of Democratic MPs led by Grijalva have announced their opposition to the bill.