Senior Director, Policy, Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
August 02, 2023
As the U.S. continues to work toward a clean energy future, critical minerals are playing an increasingly important role in our economy. Critical minerals are fundamental components to many emerging U.S. industries, including defense, aerospace, renewable energies, semiconductors, electric vehicles, medical equipment, and consumer goods.
Unfortunately, the mining of these critical minerals has fallen victim to America’s burdensome, outdated permitting process.
To highlight challenges facing domestic critical mineral development, as well as possible solutions, the U.S. Chamber held a Critical Minerals Summit featuring expert voices from government and industry. As part of the U.S. Chamber’s Permit America to Build campaign, this event underscored the need for Congress to act on modernizing America’s outdated permitting system.
While the summit focused on the urgent need for action to strengthen our domestic critical minerals industry and its role in the economy, the green energy transition, and national security, recent legislative progress did not go unnoticed.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean energy incentives were praised for driving public sector investments in the critical mineral market.
More to be Done
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) opened the event with a clear statement of support for addressing permitting challenges for mining: “I am baffled by those who seek carbon neutrality but refuse to support the critical minerals that get us there.”
Cortez Masto emphasized the need for substantial reform of the permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act and the importance of moving away from imported processed minerals. She urged Congress to support a domestic supply chain for critical minerals including domestic mining, processing, and manufacturing. Highlighting one of her important bipartisan legislative efforts to protect critical mineral production in the West, the Mining Regulatory Clarity Act (S.1281)was introduced along with Senator James Risch (R-ID) .
Securing our Domestic Supply Chain
Omar Vargas, Vice President, and Head of Global Public Policy at General Motors emphasized the need to build a resilient EV battery supply chain. Mr. Vargas outlined the importance of developing a domestic supply chain for critical minerals not only to support battery production, but also to meet emission reduction goals more efficiently.
Other speakers noted that permitting delays in mining are undermining federal efforts to strengthen the critical minerals supply chain. They stressed the need for regulatory and legislative reforms to break the permitting log jam.
Rich Nolan, President and CEO of the National Mining Association, noted that the average permit approval time is 4.5 years and is often significantly longer for projects involving critical minerals and mining.
In addition to criticizing the lengthy permitting process and litigation battles that slow mining projects, the speakers also discussed the national security risks due to the critical minerals supply chain’s overreliance on foreign markets.
The Importance of Public-Private Sector Collaboration
The Summit also emphasized the need for innovation and advanced technology in the mining, processing, and recycling of critical minerals. Speakers shared innovative and proactive steps taken by government and industry to ensure the availability of critical minerals in their supply chain.
John Lushetsky, a senior advisor at the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office, discussed the financial and technical support his office can provide for critical mineral supply chain projects using new and advanced technology.
Randall Atkins, CEO of Ramaco Resources, highlighted the benefits of supporting innovation efforts, crediting the use of advanced technology in discovering what may be the nation’s largest unconventional deposit of rare earth minerals—key ingredients needed for renewable energy technologies.
Other speakers stressed the importance of continued public-private partnerships and government support to ensure our critical mineral supply chain is secured and the U.S. has the resources necessary to support our infrastructure, green energy, and technology goals without having to rely on foreign competitors who currently dominate the market.
Additional speakers included Mary Durbin (Global Energy Institute), Matthew Zolnowski (Greyfriars LLC & The Wilson Center), Abigail Hunter (Securing America’s Future Energy), Ryan Modlin (Rio Tinto), Amy Farrell (The Permitting Institute), Matt Wiggins (American Association of Port Authorities), Todd Malan (Talon Metals), and Mary Cronin (6K).
Together with a series of events held earlier this year, our Critical Minerals Summit clearly demonstrated that we must Permit America to Build.
Follow the progress of our Permit America to Build campaign here.
About the authors
Ruth Demeter is the Senior Director for policy at the Global Energy institute.