On May 16, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources passed the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Act (H.R. 4402), legislation intended to streamline the permitting process for mining operations in the United States. The bill directs the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to more efficiently develop domestic sources of minerals of strategic and critical importance to U.S. economic, national security and manufacturing capabilities.
Sponsors of the bill cited the need to eliminate duplicative regulations and improve coordination among U.S. federal, state, local and tribal agencies with jurisdiction over mining operations, noting that the United States has one of the longest permitting processes in the world. Support for the legislation, which was approved on a 27-10 vote, was motivated in part by concern over adverse implications for U.S. national security resulting from China’s efforts to control the mining and export of rare earths. These minerals are critical to a wide variety of products ranging from satellites and night vision goggles to green energy technology used in wind turbines and hybrid vehicles. While the United States possesses vast mineral resources, it has become increasingly dependent upon foreign sources of strategic minerals.
The legislation will now go to a floor vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, although a date for the vote has yet to be scheduled.
Similar efforts to streamline the review and permitting process for mining projects is underway in Canada, where the Harper Government has recently announced its Responsible Resource Development initiative as part of its Economic Action Plan 2012.