U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, and 28 cosponsors have reintroduced the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Protection Act of 2013, virtually the same bill which was passed by the House in the 112th Congress, but stalled in the U.S. Senate.
The measure streamlines the permitting process for mineral development by coordinating the actions of federal, state, local and tribal agencies “to reduce red tape while protecting the environmental review process.”
“In the 2012 ranking of countries for mining investment, the United States ranked last in permitting delays,” said Amodei, a past president of the Nevada Mining Association. “Duplicative regulations, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lack of coordination between federal agencies are threatening the economic recovery of my home state and jeopardizing our national security.”
“Nevada, which is rich in strategic and critical minerals, also has the highest unemployment rate in the nation,” he observed. “Decade-long permitting delays are standing in the way of high-paying jobs and revenue for local communities. This bill would streamline the permitting process to leverage our nation’s vast mineral resources, while paying due respect to economic and environmental concerns.”
The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013 will:
Require 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.
Define strategic and critical minerals as those that are necessary: (a) For national defense and national security requirements; (b) For the nation’s energy infrastructure including pipelines, refining capacity, electrical power generation and transmission, and renewable energy production; (c) To support domestic manufacturing, agriculture, housing, telecommunications, healthcare and transportation infrastructure; and (d) For the nation’s economic security and balance and trade.
National Mining Association CEO Hal Quinn said, “The U.S. mining industry applauds Re. Amodei for re-introducing this important legislation, which enjoys bi-partisan support and addresses a key issue for the country’s future economic growth and manufacturing revival.”
“The U.S. is blessed with abundant mineral wealth essential for our basic industries, our national defense and the consumer products we use,” Quinn noted. “Yet we are burdened by a painfully slow permitting process for the miners that produce these critical minerals.”
In a news release, Amodei estimated it can take up to 15 years for agencies to issue permits to allow mineral mining work to begin. The bill will limit the total review process for issuing permits to 30 months unless signatories to the permitting timeline agree to an extension.
The bill also sets a 90-day time limit to file a legal challenge to an energy project, requires the venue for actions challenging the mining project to the judicial district to the judicial district where the project is located, and limits any preliminary injunctions to halt mining projects to 60 days unless the court finds clear reason to extend the injunction.
“The result places the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage and forces our economy to become increasingly reliant on foreign producers for minerals we can produce domestically,” said Quinn. “Our dependence on foreign minerals has doubled in the past 20 years.”
“Similar to the bill introduced in the 112th Congress, the Amodei bill carefully addresses the deficiencies of our outdated and underperforming permitting system. It provides for efficient, timely and thorough permit reviews and incorporates best practices for coordination between state and federal agencies,” Quinn added.
While the House remains Republican, the Senate remains Democratic, possibly assuring passage of the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Protection Act of 2013 in the House, and potentially only to be stalled again in the Senate. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, the son of a Nevada gold miner, could prove a factor in the bill’s ultimate fate.