BLM proposes rule to ease restrictions on mineral mining companies

October 10, 2019

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed a rule that would streamline the regulations placed on nonenergy U.S. mineral development and make it easier for mineral mining companies to lower their royalty rates.

The proposed rule is another step by the Trump administration to jump-start the domestic mining of critical minerals, a list of elements considered key to national security. 

“This would improve the BLM’s ability to provide relief to producers of non-energy solid leasable minerals, from burdens, such as geological hardships and market transformations,” the proposal reads.

The proposal argues that “existing regulatory requirements are overly restrictive, inflexible, and burdensome” and that the Interior secretary has the power to reduce ongoing royalty rates, rental fees and minimum production requirements to promote development, The Hill reported.

“The Trump administration is dedicated to enhancing the exploration and development of federal solid mineral resources in an environmentally conscious manner,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement. “By eliminating burdensome regulations, the U.S. will have a stronger foothold to compete globally in non-energy, solid, leasable commodities markets and increase job opportunities at home instead of abroad.”

In 2017, Trump signed an executive order to ensure that was suitable supplies of critical minerals and in 2018, the list was expanded to 35 minerals from 28, and included uranium for the first time.

The Commerce Department in June issued a recommendation to help speed up production of all critical minerals on the list. The report argued that “assured supply of critical minerals and the resiliency of their supply chains are essential to the economic prosperity and national defense of the United States.”

Further, a government working group established by Trump this summer was expected to make an announcement over whether the administration should further incentivize uranium mining in the U.S.

"While this proposed rule doesn't specifically mention uranium, the rule would apply to any uranium deposits found on acquired lands, as the mineral would be considered as leasable at that point," an Interior spokesperson told The Hill.

The BLM’s proposed rule explicitly says it would meet the requirements laid out in Trump’s 2017 executive order.

“This proposed rule would meet the goals” of the order “by improving the BLM’s ability to ensure continued production of critical minerals on public lands,” the proposal reads.

The text of the proposal also says the rule would give the agency “more flexibility to respond to changing market dynamics by improving the BLM’s ability to boost production and support development of the federal mineral estate when deemed necessary.”

The administration estimated that in 2017 nonenergy mineral mining in the country contributed $13.4 billion to the national economy. The proposed rule expects to save the industry $5 million in regulatory costs in the next decade.

The draft rule will be published in the Federal Register.

 Photo: The Mountain Pass Mine in California. Credit, Mining Engineering.


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