By Zack Colman - 07/06/12 09:16 PM EDT
Opponents of the bill fear that expediting the permitting process would be harmful to the environment and make it difficult for the public to review mining plans.
Amodei’s bill would also make any domestic mine containing “strategic and critical minerals” an infrastructure project, in accordance with a definition laid out in a March 22 executive order from President Obama.
That order directed improvements in federal permitting processes to expedite infrastructure development. Currently, surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource projects, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband and pipelines qualify as infrastructure projects.
Obama’s order left the door open to the inclusion of other projects, however, with a caveat for inclusion of “other such sectors as determined” by the committee charged with overseeing the permit streamlining initiative.
The House bill text cites increasing reliance on foreign minerals — and the increasing reluctance of trade partners to export them — as the impetus for the legislation.
Chinese and Indian industrialization has sapped mineral supplies available to the United States, the bill says, alongside a rise in “resource nationalism.” The Obama administration is pushing the World Trade Organization to make China loosen its grip on rare-earth minerals supplies, which are crucial for high-tech manufacturing.
The United States last year imported 67 nonfuel mineral materials, up from 30 in 1986, the bill says. U.S. worldwide mineral exploration expenses dropped to 8 percent of the global total last year, down from 19 percent in the early 1990s.