WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012 Thursday by a bipartisan vote of 256 to 160.
Congressman Mark Amodei (NV-2) introduced the legislation, which is his second bill to pass the House since he was elected in September 2011.
“In the 2012 ranking of countries for mining investment, the United States ranked last in permitting delays,” Amodei said in a statement. “Duplicative regulations, bureaucratic inefficiency, and lack of coordination between federal agencies are threatening the economic recovery of my home state and jeopardizing our national security. Nevada, which is rich in strategic and critical minerals, also has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Decade-long permitting delays are standing in the way of high-paying jobs and revenue for local communities.
The Act would bring some predictability and transparency to the permitting process to leverage the country’s vast mineral resources, while paying due respect to economic and environmental concerns, Amodei said.
The 11-page bill would not change any environmental regulations, protections, or opportunity for public input. It would simply ask federal land managers to collaborate with all stakeholders in an effort to move the process along in two and a half years, as opposed to indefinite timelines.
“Critical and strategic minerals are essential ingredients to the technologies that make our daily lives and economy work. Computers, smart phones, medical equipment, renewable energy (wind turbines, solar panels, hybrid vehicles), military equipment, building and manufacturing materials all require hard rock minerals and rare earth elements,” Amodei said.
Despite our vast mineral wealth, America is extremely dependent on foreign countries like China for these vital components of the American manufacturing sector, Amodei said.
Australia and Canada demonstrate it is possible to streamline permitting processes without sacrificing environmental protections. Australia’s permitting timeline is 22.5 months and Canada’s is 24 months. The U.S.’s average is seven to 10 years.
“It’s no coincidence that Australia attracted 13 percent of worldwide minerals exploration dollars in 2011 and Canada 18 percent, as compared to nine percent for America,” he said.
“We are surrendering thousands of jobs with average salaries of $70,000 to $80,000 without putting up a fight. And we are leaving countless other American manufacturing jobs dependent on foreign countries because we are unwilling to cut red tape and allow federal land managers reasonable administrative guidelines to work with each other and all stakeholders,” he said.