Wednesday, April 21, 2021
I have been working on protecting and enhancing our critical mineral supply chain for several years. Why? Almost every modern convenience is dependent upon these minerals. Items like solar panels and photovoltaic cells, wind power turbines, electric vehicles, drones, fighter jets, radios, electronic shielding, combat equipment, batteries, electronics, and lighting all require critical minerals.
Critical minerals are metals and non-metals that are considered vital to the economic well-being of our country and our modern way of life. In 2018, the Department of Interior published a comprehensive listing of 35 critical minerals.1 The United States is import reliant (imports are greater than 50% of annual consumption) on 31 of those 35 minerals and relies 100% on imports of 14 of those minerals. This is an economic and national defense emergency.
Yet global challenges, including scarcity, sourcing, and the threat posed by international monopolies put their supply at risk. Over decades, our nation has not kept pace with foreign mineral producers, forcing the United States to rely on others, mainly China. We must seek solutions to end this dependence.
My district in Arizona, which is a traditional mining district, offers hope on how we can rely less on foreign dependence on minerals. In Laz Paz County, for example, miners are drilling exploration holes on significant development of light rare earth minerals. Miners are also working alongside the Department of Defense to re-develop a 300,000 metric ton pile of low-grade manganese ore into high-grade electromagnetic manganese metal, a critical defense industry component, and creating the first domestic manganese development since the 1970’s. The United States Geologic Survey along with the Arizona Geological Survey are researching a previously undiscovered lithium deposit near Bagdad, Arizona, which could create a massive new lithium supply for America. In addition, miners are on the verge of starting a 60-year mining development on our nation’s largest copper reserve that will produce other critical minerals, including tellurium and nickel.
These opportunities are not just in my district in Arizona. Minnesota, for example, is seeing the rebirth of their historic mining district with the development of copper-nickel-cobalt mines. Nevada has critical lithium minerals. Opportunities for rare earths are being explored in old coal mines in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Building or reopening rare earth mines and processing is taking place in California, Wyoming, Texas, Florida and Colorado.
While these tremendous opportunities are sitting on our doorstep, one major inhibitor is they take time to develop. The average project can take a decade or longer to bring online.
To address this delay, I introduced the American Critical Mineral Independence Act of 2021 with my colleague, Florida Representative Mike Waltz. This bill, the product of a joint effort between the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, is a much-needed step forward in supporting critical mineral development in the United States. This bill would drastically improve our ability to develop critical minerals by streamlining the massive, convoluted permitting process required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Unfortunately, Mr. Biden continues to put politics ahead of sound policy. Instead of investing in the United States, improving our mine permitting process and creating high wage domestic jobs, the Biden Administration is actively targeting domestic mining projects. Projects like Twin Metals in Minnesota and Resolution Copper in Arizona can provide desperately needed minerals, including copper, nickel, cobalt and tellurium, which are essential for electric vehicles, solar panels and many defense-related technologies. But the Biden Administration wants to recklessly stop these projects.
For too long, American mining has been lapped by foreign countries. If these critical minerals are not produced domestically, they will be mined in other nations, some openly hostile to the United States and others that have notoriously poor human rights and environmental standards. Getting the Administration to focus on creating American jobs and passing the Critical Mineral Exploration and Innovation Act of 2021 will help us power renewable energy and advanced technologies that are domestically sourced and supplied by the American worker.
• U.S. Representative Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S., Arizona Republican, focuses his legislative work on natural resources issues and government accountability. Both areas stem from his work on the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Dr. Gosar represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District and is the Republican Leader of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
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