Pressure mounts to cut permitting time for new mines
On Sept. 1, a recommendation to cut the time needed to permit a new mine in the United States was submitted to the Interagency Working Group on Mining Reform, a group that was formed in February to examine potential changes to the 1872 mining law.
The recommendation comes from U.S. mining companies, automakers and a bipartisan group of congressional members who recommended that the federal government cut permitting time in order to boost domestic production of electric vehicle minerals.
“If we’re going to meet the needs of the clean energy economy while respecting our obligations to Tribal Nations, Western communities, taxpayers, the environment, and future generations, we need an all-of-government approach and the input of all Americans to make sure mining in this country is sustainable, responsible, and efficient,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland when the Interagency Working Group on Mining Reform was formed.
Any changes would need to be approved by the full U.S. Congress and President Joe Biden, Reuters reported.
“Today’s lengthy, costly, and inefficient permitting process makes it difficult for American businesses to invest in the extraction and processing of critical minerals in the United States,” Chris Smith, Ford Motor Co’s chief government affairs officer, wrote to the committee.
Ford, which has lithium supply deals with Nevada’s ioneer Ltd and Utah’s Compass Minerals International Inc, asked for faster mine permitting, greater transparency in the review process and a boost to federal funding of geological mapping.
EV maker Rivian Automotive Inc. said it supports mine permitting reform “done in a more efficient and coordinated way.”
State and federal approval for a mine can take more than a decade, compared to an average of a few years in Canada and Australia, which have large mining sectors.
Conservationists said the U.S. mining law is decades overdue for reform and should instead be changed to require more recycling as well as focusing better on ways to mitigate mining’s effect on host communities, avoiding some of the negative effects of fossil fuel production.
Ford’s requests were echoed by the National Mining Association (NMA), which also asked that a net royalty for minerals extracted on federal land be set, rather than a royalty on gross income. There are no existing royalties for companies that mine on federal land, much to the chagrin of conservationists.
The NMA is also asking for so-called Good Samaritan legislation that would indemnify a company from legal liability if it rehabilitates an old mine site. Perpetua Resources, for example, is trying to redevelop Idaho’s Stibnite Gold project, which was polluted by World War Two-era mining.
Freeport-McMoRan Inc, the largest U.S. copper producer, recommended that the red metal be added to a list of minerals considered critical for the nation’s defense and economy.
Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Arizona Senator Mark Kelly signed a bipartisan letter to the committee asking for a more-streamlined mine permitting process. Proposed mines in Nevada from Lithium Americas Corp and Arizona from Rio Tinto Ltd have been under development for more than a decade.