U.S. House passes National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act
A controversial measure to streamline permitting for U.S. strategic and critical minerals won strong Republican support in the U.S. House, but is expected to stall in the Democratically-controlled Senate.
Posted: Friday , 13 Jul 2012
RENO (MINEWEB) -
By a bipartisan vote of 256 to 160, U.S. House Republicans passed H.R. 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Mineral Production Act of 2012.
However, unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, can keep fellow Nevada congressional delegation member Rep. Mark Amodei's bill alive, the bill is expected to die in the U.S. Senate.
The 234 Republicans who voted in favor of the bill were joined by 22 Democrats, while all those voting against the measure were Democrats.
In a news release, Republican Amodei, the former president of the Nevada Mining Association, said, "H.R. 4402 would simply bring some predictability and transparency to the permitting process to leverage our nation's vast mineral resources, while paying respect to economic and environmental concerns. ...It simply would ask federal land managers to collaborate with all stakeholders in an effort to move the [permitting] process along in two and a half years, as opposed to indefinite timelines."
"Australia and Canada demonstrate it is possible to streamline permitting processes without sacrificing environmental protection," Amodei said. Australia's permitting timeline is 22.5 months and Canada's is 24 months. The U.S. Average is seven to 10 years. It's no coincidence that Australia attracted 13% of worldwide minerals exploration dollars in 2011 and Canada 18%, as compared to 9% for America."
National Mining Association CEO Hall Quinn said, "While few countries can rival the U.S. when it comes to an abundance of mineral resources, we remain cursed with a third-world permitting system that discourages investment and the downstream industries, related jobs, innovative and technology that depend on a secure and reliable mineral supply chain."
"Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and his colleagues have carefully and credibly addressed the pitfalls of our current outdated and underperforming permitting system by providing efficient, timely and thorough permits reviews and by incorporating best practices for coordination among state and federal agencies, clarifying responsibilities, avoiding duplication, setting timeframes and bringing more accountability to the process," Quinn noted.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, told the House, "The lack of American produced strategic and critical minerals are prime examples of how America has regulated itself into a 100% dependence on at least 19 unique minerals."
"Even though America has a plentiful supply of rare earth elements, our negative approach to producing these crucial materials has resulted in China producing 97% of the world's rare earth elements," Hastings observed. "This legislation gives the opportunity for American manufacturers, small businesses, technology companies, and construction firms to use American resources to help make the products that are essential to our everyday lives and in the process also put more Americans back to work."
However, ranking Natural Resources Committee member, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., declared, "In this latest giveaway to corporations, Republicans claim that sand, gravel, stone and clay are ‘strategic minerals, ushering a new ‘Stone Age' in the United States. This bill isn't giving us the futuristic technologies of the Jetsons. It's giving us the prehistoric technologies of the Flintstones."
Markey said the Republican mining giveaway bill would short circuit the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act, and elevate mining above all other uses of public lands, like grazing, recreation, fishing or other activities.
Republicans also voted down Markey's amendment to require a 12.5% royalty of the value of minerals such as gold, silver and uranium mined on federal lands.
Rep. Rush Holt, D-New Jersey, claims Amodei's bill "has almost nothing to do with national strategic critical minerals production.
"Make no mistake, this is a giveway," Holt said. "It is free mining, no royalties, no protection of public interest, exemption from royalty payments, near exemption from environmental regulations, near exemption of legal enforcement of the protections."
Amodei responded, "The giveaway stuff is phenomenally entertaining. This does nothing to tax law. This does nothing to safety law. This does nothing...to supplant" environmental law.