Wyoming Senator delivers comments on critical minerals and permitting
U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), spoke during a full committee hearing to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing domestic critical mineral mining, processing, refining, and reprocessing.
The Senator said the Biden administration’s decision to invoke the Cold War era Defense Production act is not likely to provide a meaningful increase in production of critical minerals in the United States unless the permitting process is also addressed.
The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Steve Fortier, director of the USGS National Minerals Information Center at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Scott Melbye, president of the Uranium Producers of America; Julie Padilla, chief regulatory officer of Twin Metals Minnesota; Abigail Wulf, vice president of the Critical Minerals Strategy and director of the Center for Critical Minerals Strategy at Securing America’s Future Energy and Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University.
“Unless the president streamlines permitting, we should not expect to see any meaningful increase in American mineral production. Currently, the United States is 100 percent dependent on imports of 17 key minerals,” said Barrasso. “We are over 50 percent dependent on imports of another 29 minerals.”
“As with other critical minerals, we have the resources here in the United States. We just need the political will to use them,” the senator said.
“Despite his climate pledges, President Biden has done nothing meaningful to boost American mineral production. In fact, the Biden administration has only made it more difficult to access minerals here at home in America,” Barrasso stressed.
In March of last year, the US Forest Service rescinded an environmental impact statement for a land swap “necessary for a major copper mine in Arizona.” Then in August, the Bureau of Land Management proposed withdrawing 10 million acres in Wyoming from mineral exploration.
“The list goes on,” said Barrasso, who went on to mention more cancelled projects.
“In January of this year, Interior Secretary Haaland cancelled leases for a new nickel and copper mine in Minnesota. And last month, the Department of the Interior said it would withdraw a right-of-way for a road necessary for a new copper mine in Alaska.
“The Department also proposed designating critical habitat for a flower that complicates the permitting of a new lithium mine in Nevada,” he said.