Critical and Strategic Minerals Bill
The Critical Minerals Policy Act (Senate Bill 1113), sponsored by Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would enable the Department of the Interior to designate some minerals, such as rare earths, as “critical.” The House of Representatives passed a similar bill, the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2012 (HR 4402) in July, 2012. These bills would allow the Department of the Interior to select any mineral deemed important for agriculture or defense or subject to disruptions in supply. Mining projects targeting these minerals would be subject to a streamlined permitting process.
This is a bad idea:
- Any mineral- from rare earth elements to the gravel from your driveway- could be designated “critical”
- The bill enacts a 36 month deadline for permits.
- The bill would limit public input regarding concerns about clean water, public health and the environment
- Rare earths are often harvested as a byproduct of other metals. The permitting process for mines targeting other substances, such as uranium or copper, could be streamlined if rare earths were to also be extracted.
It is often suggested that streamlining the mine permitting process would speed it up. Such suggestions ignore the real problem: small mining companies often file shoddy permit applications with no intention of following through on them. Their goal is to attract capital, not to operate a mine. Processing these permits eats up regulators’ time, slowing the permit process for everyone. There is an easy solution: immediately deny incomplete permits instead of letting them suck up agency resources.