Ruth Demeter Ruth Demeter
Senior Director, Policy, Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


July 10, 2024


The future of the U.S. depends on securing vital minerals and energy resources. At the Chamber's Critical Minerals Summit, experts discussed strategies to strengthen our mineral supply chains and ensure the U.S. remains a leader in technology and energy transition.

Global demand for critical minerals and materials is predicted to skyrocket in the coming years, spurring both public and private efforts to enhance the security of the supply chain. During the Summit, government and industry leaders emphasized the importance of permitting reform, increased U.S. investment in domestic and allied mining diversification of global supply chains, and workforce development as top priorities in achieving mineral and energy security for the United States.

Securing Global Supply Chains

To kick off our Summit, the U.S. Department of State’s Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Energy Resources, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, emphasized that overwhelming reliance on Chinese and Russian-controlled mineral development and processing directly threatens U.S. national security interests. 

“The United States needs to diversify its natural resources supply chains because today, more than 90% of critical minerals are going through China. We cannot rely excessively on one energy supplier, we learned from Europe’s experience with Russia in the last decades,” said Pyatt. 

Diversifying and seeking opportunities for direct U.S. engagement globally can make mineral supply chains more secure and less vulnerable to disruption. Multinational collaborations like the Mineral Security Partnership seek to accelerate the pace of global mining development. Additional diplomatic efforts have also enabled the U.S. to successfully partner with the Democratic Republic of Congo on cobalt and copper supply, U.S. State Department official George Cajati said, despite the historical challenges associated with working in that jurisdiction.

Improving Outdated Federal Permitting Process

Permitting delays, bureaucracy, and regulatory challenges are driving investments in critical mineral mining away from American soil. The U.S. has significant lithium, copper, and other critical mineral deposits, providing an opportunity to re-shore some development, but permitting challenges are a major factor keeping investment capital on the sidelines, jeopardizing the “economic viability” of mining projects, said Richard Russell with the National Mining Association

“Uncertainty is a killer for investors,” said Rep. John James (MI-10), referring to mining projects that often gather governmental support and millions in private investment over several years, but exist under the looming threat that they could be halted in one day under our current permitting system.

"I am a big proponent of permitting reform, especially for mining refining and recycling," said Rep. Juan Ciscomani (AZ-06). 

“We need projects to receive a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ faster. If it is no, that is fine, but we need to know quickly to redistribute capital elsewhere,” said Alex Fitzsimmons, former DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary, who now works for Sila Technologies.

This uncertainty extends to pricing volatility. Jenna Schroeder, principal adviser of external affairs for Rio Tinto, called pricing volatility the biggest risk to the industry and emphasized the need for a transparent pricing clearinghouse. Schroeder noted that the U.S. government “has a role in signaling to companies like mine that this is a good time to invest.” 

Addressing Workforce Challenges 

Domestic mining companies are also running into workforce constraints, as a lack of development has driven talent globally or into other fields. Investing in education is as important as investing in strategic projects.

  • The Essential Minerals Association is part of a coalition of 50 professional societies and universities. EMA’s Wayne Palmer said passage of the Mining Schools Act of 2023, will provide tens of millions of dollars to mining schools to foster the next generation’s technical talents.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy is also working to partner with universities and national labs to drive interest in mining-related careers, as highlighted by Dr. Grant Bromhal, Acting Director of DoE’s Mineral Sustainability division. 
  • “The majority of our innovation is done through private partnerships with the industry, labs, schools, and we try to foster them,” said Bromhal. 

The Power of Private Sector Leadership  

To wrap up the Summit, the Director of the Dept. of Energy’s Loan Programs Office and visionary leader in sustainability infrastructure, Jigar Shah sat down with the Chamber’s senior vice president of the Global Energy Institute, Christopher Guith, to explore how the private sector and government can best partner to accomplish our shared goals of becoming mineral and energy secure. 

“The United States has some of the best technologies in the world to achieve the most challenging clean energy transition targets but conversations in the industry take place in silos. We need to talk to each other,” Shah said. “We need private companies to guide us on which projects, companies, and assets are interesting. Incentives are coming from the private sector.” 

As the technologies reliant on these critical mineral components advance, ensuring stable and secure supply chains and greater domestic production and processing are necessary to propel U.S. economic growth and provide critical market diversification. 

About the authors

Ruth Demeter

Ruth Demeter

Ruth Demeter is the Senior Director for policy at the Global Energy institute.