House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals

House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals
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House Republicans have introduced a measure that would speed up permitting for mining projects in the U.S. in order to avoid importing critical minerals from countries like China.

The bill would require agencies to set strict timetables for reviewing permitting requests for new projects mining critical minerals used in products ranging from batteries to medical supplies to electronics.

“The status quo that we are dealing with is relying on really horrible environmental and labor standards in China and other places. I think this is one of the things and has to be acknowledged by everybody,” said House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower cites Trump tweets as impetus for California emissions probe | Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay | Trump vows crackdown on monument vandalism Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay Natural Resources Democrats again rebuff Republican complaints about virtual meetings MORE (R-Utah), one of the sponsors of the bill. 

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A number of countries mine cobalt, graphite, copper, uranium and other essential metals, including some U.S. allies. Republican lawmakers on Natural Resources as well as the House Science Committee hope the permitting changes would decrease the length of the process from seven to 10 years to two or three years.

The bill also reinforces the Department of the Interior’s role in establishing a critical minerals list, designating any mineral “essential to the economic or national security of the United States.” 

Any short-circuiting of the environmental review process would be unlikely to advance in the Democratic-led House.

“American mining law was written in the 1870s and hasn’t been updated since. If Republicans think that law is too strict and not industry-friendly enough, that’s their business, but the American people don’t support the kind of environmental deregulation they’re proposing and neither do I," Rep. Raúl Grijalva, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

The legislation is the latest effort from Republicans to shore up the domestic mining industry, following a report from the Department of Energy in April promoting a surge in the American uranium mining industry as a way to jump-start the domestic nuclear energy business.  

The legislation also bars the secretary of the Interior from blocking mining projects on federal lands without congressional approval, a measure that would have stopped the Obama administration from barring a uranium mining project near the Grand Canyon.

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Energy Fuels Resources, which owns one of the few mining projects exempted from the declaration, won a court battle with environmentalists last week who sought to block its mining project.

However, the company has not begun mining due to low uranium prices. 

“A drop in profits is not enough to defeat valid existing rights if the mine remains profitable,” U.S. District Judge David Campbell in Arizona wrote in the decision last week.

Updated at 5:24 p.m.