House approves bill to speed up mineral mining

House approves bill to speed up mineral mining
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House lawmakers approved a bill Thursday to speed up the permitting process for mining resources deemed "strategic or critical."

In a 254-177 vote, lawmakers approved the bill from Rep. Mark AmodeiMark Eugene AmodeiRevitalize our defense industrial base with mine permitting reform To reduce China's leverage, rebuild America's minerals supply chain GOP staves off immigration revolt — for now MORE (R-Nev.) that sets a 30-month deadline for approving permits for mineral mining on federal land.

Critical minerals are key components in many technologies, from MRI machines, wind turbines and solar panels to computers and smartphones.

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Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), a bill co-sponsor, said the legislation is designed to help American mining firms unearth those elements more quickly and compete with other miners around the world.

The U.S., he said, citing studies, is ranked near the bottom when it comes to permitting ease for mining projects, with approval often taking up to a decade. 

“Despite the tremendous need for rare earth elements, the United States has allowed itself to become almost entirely dependent on China and other foreign nations for these resources,” he said. 

“These unnecessary delays cost us American jobs, as we become more and more dependent on foreign countries like China for these minerals.” 

The bill won the support of 8 Democrats, but most opposed the bill. The White House voiced its disapproval earlier this week.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) pointed to federal data showing mining approvals speeding up under President Obama.

He said the only thing the bill does is weaken environmental standards, and that lawmakers should look at overhauling other mining rules, from royalty rates to abandoned mine clean-up, instead. 

“This bill takes us in the wrong direction,” he said. “It not only fails to make any meaningful reforms to our antiquated mining system in this country — it proposes to make them worse.”

In a Tuesday statement, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget also came out against the bill, saying it would “undermine existing environmental safeguards for, at a minimum, almost all types of hardrock mines on federal lands.”