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Removing Roadblocks to Mining Much Needed Rare Earth Minerals in the U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Republican lawmakers are backing a bill that would eliminate roadblocks to mining a number of “rare earth” minerals in the United States. These strategic minerals, essential components in green and high technology such as hybrid cars, iPods and solar panels, are readily available in the U.S. but mining them has been stalled by the Washington bureaucracy for years.

The rare earth minerals valued at are more than $6 trillion, include terbium, yttrium and dysprosium are found throughout the U.S. The U.S. Geological Survey reported in 2010 that 13 million tons of known deposits of rare earth elements have been located in 14 states including Alaska, California, Florida, and New York.

In spite of this rich supply of rare minerals in the United States, China accounts for 96 percent of the world’s supply. “The United States is heavily reliant on foreign countries such as China for critical minerals that are the building blocks of our economy and imperative to renewable energy development, military technology and the manufacturing of nearly all of our electronic devices,” said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Resources Committee

Hall Quinn, president of the National Mining Association, said at a recent House hearing on the bill that it routinely takes as long as ten years to get a mining permit. “The length, complexity and uncertainty of the permitting process are the primary reasons investors give for not investing in U.S. minerals mining,” said Quinn.

Quinn noted that, “Delaying permits for mining projects is not a new problem. What is new is the growing awareness of its implications for our nation, particularly in a highly competitive world economy in which the demand for minerals continues to grow, especially in fast growing economies led by China and India.”

Republican lawmakers like Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) are supporting legislation called the Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act that they say tackles the problem of getting the needed permits to begin mining operations. The bill would reverse a thirty year trend of increased reliance on foreign countries and fierce competition to gain access to the needed resources.

“In the 2012 ranking of countries for mining investment, the United States ranked last, tied with Papua New Guinea, in permitting delays,” Amodei said. “Decade-long permitting delays are standing in the way of high-paying jobs and revenue for local communities. This bill would streamline the permitting process to leverage our nation’s vast mineral resources while paying due respect to economic and environmental concerns.”

The United States has become completely reliant on China, and in addition to the threats to national security of not being self-reliant in this area, the delays in approving mining permits has also costs high-paying jobs.

The National Mining Association warns that the risk of scarcity will rise so significantly that it will lead to supply instability and potential disruptions in the next five years. If that happens, price increases in the commodities as well as the goods associated with it will not be far behind.

The Toyota Prius uses more of the mineral than any other consumer product, including lanthanum and cerium in the battery, yttrium in the component sensors, dysprosium and terbium in the motor and generator and neodymium in the headlight glass.

Like oil and natural gas supplies within the United States that go untapped, these much needed rare minerals are available. The only thing standing in the way of mining them is a bloated regulatory system that seems intent on turning the U.S. into a third world country.

©2012 Off the Grid News


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