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By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Mining policy trifecta

NMA hopeful Trump, Congress, voter priorities translate to permit reform


Last updated 1/19/2018 at 1:57pm

Donald Trump

After eight years of increasing federal regulations, United States miners are encouraged that President Donald Trump, Congress and the American people have formed a trifecta that will support policies aimed at streamline permitting and encourage growth in the mining sector.

A poll conducted for NMA earlier this month indicates that the U.S. mining sector and the American populace at large have similar priorities for the Trump administration and 115th Congress.

"When they cast their ballots in November, Americans were clear about their priorities, job creation and the economy being chief among them," said National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn. "The mining industry shares these priorities."

Of the 1,991 registered voters polled, 33 percent listed jobs and economy as the highest priority for the Trump administration and Congress. Healthcare (26 percent), national security (24 percent), infrastructure (6 percent) and energy policy (4 percent) rounded out the list of top issues for the voters.

NMA is hopeful that this prioritization on economic growth will translate into policies that could help new mines come online sooner in the United States.

"Fortunately, there are actions the Trump administration and new Congress can take on day one to save jobs in our industry and address voter concerns," Quinn said.

Out of control

While Trump may have not directly addressed mining regulations on day one, he did make it abundantly clear that he intends to eliminate unnecessary environmental regulations in the United States.

During his first formal day in the Oval Office, Trump told a gathering of corporate leaders that the his adminsitration can cut regulations hampering businesses in the United States by at least 75 percent while still protecting the environment.

"We're going to have regulation, and it'll be just as strong and just as good and just as protective of the people as the regulation we have right now. The problem with the regulation that we have right now is that you can't do anything," he explained.

He delivered a similar message to automobile executives the next day.

"Our friends that want to build in the United States, they go many, many years and then they can't get the environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before. And it's absolutely crazy," He told the automobile sector leaders, "I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist – I believe in it, but it's out of control."

Quinn said the notoriously long process to gain environmental permits to open a mine "places the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage and forces us to increasingly rely on foreign producers for minerals we can produce domestically."

Miners agree

While Trump's promise to roll back regulations was directed primarily at the manufacturing sector, it addresses a long running concern for the mining industry – a long and arduous permitting process.

"The U.S. is blessed with abundant mineral wealth essential for our basic infrastructure needs, our national defense systems and the consumer products we use every day. Yet we are burdened by a painfully slow mine permitting process that can take seven to 10 years," explained Quinn.

The NMA executive said these delays have resulted in a doubling of U.S. dependence on foreign sources of minerals over the past 20 years.

"Today, less than half of the mineral needs of U.S. manufacturing are met from domestically mined minerals, a trend that will only worsen unless we reform the permitting process responsible for it," he added.

SNL Metals & Mining, a global research firm, found that the permitting process in the U.S. takes more than three times longer than other western mining countries with comparable environmental standards.

"Like the U.S., the environmental permitting process in other developed world mining countries, such as Australia and Canada, is very stringent. These countries also require consultation with local communities and give stakeholders the right to raise objections and appeals. However, in both countries, the processes for obtaining permits are swifter than those observed in the U.S.," the research firm penned in the 2015 report.

SNL said a clearly defined timeline and making it the mine proponent's responsibility to complete the environmental impact statement contribute to the more compact permitting process in these countries – steps the research firm suggested the U.S. should take.

"While the (U.S.) project pipeline is strong for early stage projects, a bottleneck exists, slowing the progression to full functioning mines. For the U. S. to maintain security of supply in the future, it needs to address this bottleneck," concluded SNL.

New bills, new hope

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, have introduced several bills in recent years aimed at streamlining the permitting process, but have never gained enough support on Capitol Hill to send legislation to the White House.

"Permitting delays are the most significant risks to mining projects in the United States," Murkowski told miners gathered in Anchorage in 2013. "We are tied for the worst in the world, along with Papua New Guinea, as the two countries with the most numerous permitting delays. That doesn't happen by accident; in my view, that is intentional."

This year, Amodei and Sen. Dean Heller, a fellow Nevada Republican, have introduced legislation in the House and Senate aimed at addressing mine permitting delays.

"This legislation improves the burdensome permitting process, increasing American mineral security while creating blue collar mining and manufacturing jobs," Heller explained on Jan. 17.

Introduced as S.145 in the Senate and H.R.520 in the House, the "National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2017" is a continuation of a longstanding effort by Amodei.

"This is a necessary piece of legislation that has already passed the House five times the past three Congresses. I'm pleased to have Sen. Heller join me as we work to streamline the permitting process to leverage our nation's vast mineral resources, while paying respect to economic, national security, and environmental concerns," said the Nevada congressman.

With similar legislation being considered in both chambers, the White House aligned with the idea of streamlining permitting and a stronger economy on the minds of many Americans, the mining sector is hopeful that this time around new legislation that addresses the notoriously long mine permitting timeline in the United States is signed into law.

"If adopted, this legislation will support our ability to fully utilize abundant domestic mineral resources that are essential for basic infrastructure needs, national defense systems and consumer products," the National Miners Association said in a statement.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Over his more than 11 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (907) 726-1095


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