No nation on Earth has been endowed with more valuable minerals than the United States. We led the world in mining output only 30 years ago. Due to environmental activist resistance and unreasonable EPA regulations our nation has fallen to seventh in mining productivity. Yet the National Mining Association estimates that we sit atop $6 trillion in mineral assets that could add $50 to $60 billion to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually along with tremendous additional revenue to the nations tax base.
The US Geological Survey has determined that we are 100% dependent on imports for 37 important industrial minerals including all 17 rare earths, and more than 50% reliant for another 30 important minerals. The 100% group includes well known minerals such as graphite, manganese, strontium and fluorspar and the 50% group includes cobalt, lithium, tungsten, chromium and magnesium among others.
For those readers who hear daily about “rare earth” minerals but have no clue what they are other than very important in advanced electronics, here are a few aspects easy to remember. They are all oxides of metals that are commonly found grouped together in the earth. They exhibit unique attributes like magnetism, stability at extreme temperatures, resistance to corrosion and high electric conductivity. This makes them important in the production of GPS guidance systems, satellite imaging, night vision equipment, flat TV screens and a lot of military equipment. And yet we have been reliant for years on China and Russia for these critical minerals, though we likely have more of them than both countries combined. They are really not rare regardless of their name just difficult to mine.
The constraints to reversing America’s prowess as a great mining country are only the anti-mining policies of the left deep rooted in federal politics. Federal lands in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas contain the bulk of our mineral resources. Trump’s Executive Order 13817 was intended to task federal agencies to formulate a plan to right this wrong.
Such progress continues to be thwarted by environmental groups threatening lawsuits, desiring to keep our wealth in the ground. It is ironic that the many rare earth minerals involved are necessary to build the green groups cherished wind turbines and solar cells domestically.
Mineral imports from China and Russia provide them with geopolitical leverage at the worst time in history. It borders on insanity that the year 2016 saw several metal mines and processing facilities idled or closed permanently in Michigan and Minnesota. In Indiana, Missouri and Washington three primary aluminum smelters were shut along with a zinc smelter in North Carolina, a titanium facility in Utah and titanium mine in Virginia.
One of the most mineralized regions on Earth extends from Colorado to the Pacific ocean with world class deposits of chromium, cobalt,,copper, gold, platinum, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, silver, titanium and tin to name but a few. Government policies have shut off the mining industries opportunity to develop this national wealth. Our manufacturing arm has had to look elsewhere for these necessary minerals that continue to advance our standard of living with new and important products.
The Obama Administration dramatically increased the withdrawal of public lands from development through the abuse of the Antiquities Act to satisfy the anti-mining and anti-drilling wishes of radical environmental groups. He used the Act 29 times to establish or expand national monuments. He also used the Outer Continental Lands Act to withdraw coastal areas from mineral leasing activities. He declared other land off limits claiming them to be wilderness areas or for habitat preservation and even military use.
The result has been that vast tracts of public lands no longer allow mineral exploration, leasing and mining.
The federal government manages 640 million acres of land, roughly 28% of the United States, 90% of which is in the 12 western states. Canada, Australia and other major mining countries who now lead us in mining do so with very stringent regulations to ensure environmental protection. We are able to do the same.
The bottom line is that there is so much federal land that contains ore deposits, we need never contemplate mining in a national park or monument area.
Some critical minerals will always have to be imported, but we must recommit to use our domestic minerals
according to principles of good stewardship, including our conservation ethic. This can be our best countermeasure to the instability of the international supply chain for key minerals important to our economy and national defense. It will also bring 2 million jobs home .
We totally turned around our dependence on foreign oil and gas to become a major exporter. We can do that once again to become one of worlds most important producer of the minerals that improve the standard of living everywhere.