Rare Earth Elements and Mining Get Attention on the Hill

There has been a flurry of action on Capitol Hill regarding the need to improve our knowledge of the amounts of rare earths in the country, our current resource needs, constraints and bottle-necks and need to streamline mining laws.  There is no easy link to this material so I post the full article below:


Colo. Republican unveils bill to promote U.S. mineral development

Manuel Quinones, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The chairman of the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee announced legislation yesterday that would make it U.S. policy to promote domestic availability and production of key mineral resources.

Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn’s measure, H.R. 1603, is one of several recently introduced bills aimed at tackling foreign dependence on rare earth elements and other materials necessary for economic or defense needs.

The legislation notes that by 2010, “United States import dependence for nonfuel mineral materials more than doubled from 30 to 67 commodities, 18 commodities were imported entirely to meet the Nation’s requirements, and another 25 commodities required imports of more than 50 percent.”

It adds, “[T]he United States lacks a coherent national policy to assure the availability of minerals essential to manufacturing, national economic well-being and security, agricultural production, and global economic competitiveness.”

The Lamborn bill calls on the Interior Department, working with a suite of federal agencies, to assess U.S. mineral capabilities and demands.

The legislation would also task Interior with studying the mineral potential in restricted areas, the permitting process and the impact of litigation on mine development. Progress reports would be due on efforts to expand access.

The new Lamborn bill appears to be an expanded version of H.R. 2011, which cleared the full Natural Resources Committee unanimously in 2011.

Democrats and conservation advocates have accused mining boosters of using the bills as a means of making the permitting process more lax and avoiding strict environmental scrutiny. The subcommittee will hear arguments during a hearing next week.

Related bills on the subpanel’s agenda:

  • H.R. 761, by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), which would significantly streamline the mine permitting process, setting timelines and litigation limits (E&ENews PM, Feb. 15).
  • H.R. 981, by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), to boost knowledge of rare earth elements and their presence through new U.S. Geological Survey reviews (E&E Daily, March 7).
  • H.R. 687, by Arizona Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) and Paul Gosar (R), which would authorize a land swap in the state to facilitate a large copper mine (Greenwire, Feb. 15).
  • H.R. 697, by Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), to facilitate the cleanup of an abandoned and polluted manganese mine in the community of Henderson.
  • H.R. 767, by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), to include North Dakota and South Dakota in a federal streamlined permitting pilot program for oil and gas.
  • H.R. 957, by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), to lower the royalty rate for mining soda ash, promote the industry and allow it to compete with China.

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, March 21, at 10 a.m. in 1334 Longworth.

Comments (10)

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  1. CRS says:

    It is way past time that US dependence on rare earths gets attention.
    Also, one must wonder why the Democrat party and some so called conservationists often are on the wrong side of legislation that is good for our country.

  2. Cindy says:

    What’s the likelihood of passage? Sounds like a good idea. I don’t see why, if production is inevitable, it should matter to conservation advocates where it happens.

  3. Jordan says:

    I don’t think conservationists want to be under China’s thumb any more than the rest of us. It’ll pass.

  4. Jack says:

    Most of them will pass, there’s significant bipartisan support. The only purely dem. rider is one to increase our “knowledge” of rare earth metals. They have to legislte themselves into learning. I make myself lol.

  5. Ryan Hall says:

    The U.S. is ranked last in terms of mining permit delays, which just makes us all the more dependable on rare earths. We still depend on these minerals, so delaying the process like this just doesn’t make sense to me.

  6. Anthony Sombers says:

    I am for this mineral development bill because it’s silly to remain dependent on these rare earths when we have the ability to produce them at home and I’m sure we’ll make sure their production is more sustainable than China’s. It’s a win-win.

  7. Jackson says:

    This is awesome! I love to hear the development of US resources.

  8. Gabriel Odom says:

    This is great news! As long as we are good stewards of the land that we have (such that the surrounding biosphere is not permanently negatively affected), then I see no reason to not take advantage of these resources.

  9. Desai says:

    Rare earth getting attention on the hill, it is about time considering there is a major race for rare earth by China.

  10. Paket says:

    Why are importing when we have some of the resources in this country already?

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