"Relying solely on allies for our needs is no longer a viable strategy. While complete mineral independence may be challenging, responsibly utilizing our domestic resources whenever feasible is imperative."

Mark Compton

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN EXPLORATION & MINING ASSOCIATION (AEMA)

April 26, 2024

What has been AEMA’s focus over the last few months?

Over the last months, the Biden administration initiated the Department of the Interior-led Interagency Working Group on Mining Regulations, Laws and Permitting (IWG) to study ways to enhance domestic mineral supply chains. In September 2023, this group finally released a report containing dozens of recommendations. We engaged closely and in good faith with the Biden administration throughout this process. We viewed the IWG process and development of their report as an opportunity to identify ways to eliminate current barriers to discovering and developing minerals on public lands. While the goal of the working group was ostensibly to promote domestic mining production, unfortunately several recommendations will only hinder mining. That is disappointing, but we are committed to working constructively with the administration and Congress to ensure that our members and the broader industry can successfully develop the minerals essential to our society.

What are some key developments or reforms introduced by the Fiscal Responsibility Act?

The Fiscal Responsibility Act included some essential permitting reforms, such as enabling project proponents to prepare environmental review documents, acknowledging their interest in a timely and accurate product. The Act also introduced time limits for NEPA documents, although the practical enforcement of those limits remains to be seen. Much work remains, and tackling the litigation phase of the permitting process is imperative if we are going to accomplish meaningful permitting reform.

Should the industry work on delivering a clearer message about the value of mining to society?

One of our primary roles as an association is educating the public and policymakers about the modern mining sector. There is a prevailing "not in my backyard" sentiment in this country, partly stemming from misconceptions about what modern mining truly entails. The reality today is quite different from years ago. Current mining is highly regulated and technologically advanced, adhering to the world's strictest environmental and safety standards. Mining companies are deeply committed to their surrounding communities and collaborate with stakeholders to design, develop, and responsibly close mining projects.

We must work to educate the public about today’s industry and help them understand the beneficial impact mining has on their daily lives. Americans and the environment lose when we offshore our mineral requirements.

Why can't the US expedite the permitting process for all projects as it did with South32's Hermosa project?

I made that very point at a recent Senate committee hearing focused on countering China's dominance in mineral supply chains. The FAST-41 process that South32's Hermosa project is now undergoing was initially designed for large infrastructure projects, such as roads and transmission lines, and now includes mining projects. If we can expedite permitting for these projects without compromising our high environmental standards, it logically follows that we should apply such efficiency to all projects. Unfortunately, the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council recently proposed limiting participation to mining projects that involve only critical minerals, unnecessarily hindering our goal of bolstering domestic mining.

How have recent geopolitical events heightened concerns about secure mineral supply chains in the US?

Both political parties acknowledge the critical need for more secure mineral supply chains. The pandemic and events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ongoing issues in the Middle East, and China's global dominance in mineral supply chains have certainly heightened concerns.

China's investment in the mineral supply chain worldwide, including processing, has created a situation where nations will increasingly compete for limited resources due to the surging demand for minerals. Relying solely on allies for our needs is no longer a viable strategy. While complete mineral independence may be challenging, responsibly utilizing our domestic resources whenever feasible is imperative.

What should we expect from the AEMA in the next 12 months?

The genuine bipartisan interest in permitting reform is encouraging, so we are working hard to enact further permitting reforms as soon as possible. We also anticipate the Biden administration will put forth numerous rulemaking, policy and guidance proposals to implement the Interagency Working Group’s recommendations, and we will be heavily engaged in those processes.

With skyrocketing global mineral demand, there is more attention on mining issues than ever before. I believe we have a generational opportunity to strengthen our domestic mining industry and ensure that Made in America means Mined in America.

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