US wins race to the bottom on mining permits...again

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The latest Behre Dolbear report really brings this home. In 2009, the same study found that the U.S. permitting process took an average of 5 to 7 years. Today, thanks to increasingly convoluted federal regulations, it’s 7 to 10 years. That’s a 40 percent increase in delays in just four years.

There is an increasing awareness in the U.S. Government of America’s acute need for minerals and metals, and not only from the Pentagon and mining-state Congressmen. The Department of Energy has declared a dozen minerals critical to America’s green-tech and clean-energy transition. And the White House's own recently created Material Genome Initiative says its goal is to “support U.S. institutions in the effort to discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost.”

Unfortunately, our regulatory system is moving us in exactly the opposite direction. While the most powerful nation in the world is stuck in last place on mine permitting indicators, other nations are making it look easy. It takes about half the time to bring a new mine online in Canada as it does in the U.S. And it takes an average 1 to 2 years in Australia.

We have to ask ourselves, when other nations blessed with mineral resources are leveraging them to boost economic growth and create jobs without sacrificing environmental protections, why is the U.S. hopelessly locked in a race to the bottom?

One potential mine, the Pebble Deposit in Alaska, could be the largest copper resource in American history. Developing it could create hundreds or even thousands of jobs in Alaska, and have a strong economic ripple effect through the U.S. economy that could create or save countless jobs with manufacturers like Caterpillar. Ms. McCarthy will soon have to choose between the course set by her predecessor – preemptive EPA action to block the development of Pebble’s resources before a permit application has even been submitted – or the course dictated by reality. We cannot afford to play politics with America’s natural resources when other countries are racing to develop their own.

McGroarty is president of American Resources Policy Network.