Summary of Hearings on Mining (7-23-03)
- 7-17-03: House Resources Subcommittee
on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing on "The Role of
Strategic and Critical Minerals in Our National and Economic
Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
The Role of Strategic and Critical Minerals in Our National
and Economic Security
Charles G. Groat, Director of U.S. Geological Survey
Hugh Hanes, Brush Wellman, Inc.
Robert J. Noel, Metals Availability Initiative Consortium
Ann Carpenter, Women's Mining Coalition
Douglas B. Silver, President of Balfour Holdings, Inc.
The House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
met on July 17th to consider the role of strategic and critical minerals
in maintaining national economic security. Witnesses representing
the mining industry argued that US mineral resources have not been
depleted and could be mined in an environmentally responsible and
economically profitable manner if regulations and the permitting process
were streamlined and enforced. Their testimonies
were unchallenged and the need for a national mineral policy was stressed
throughout the hearing.
The committee first questioned US Geological Survey (USGS)
Director Charles G. Groat regarding the role that his agency plays
in collecting, analyzing, and dispensing mineral information. Groat
described a global mineral resources study slated to be finished in
2008, and explained that the survey would only be as good as the data
they have. He noted that many areas, such as Alaska, are inadequately
mapped and explored, and testified that there was "lots of potential"
for new development and exploration even within the lower 48 states.
In response to a question from Rep. James Gibbons (R-NV), Groat told
the committee that the mining industry is losing its "institutional
and educational value" as the nation's dependence on imported
minerals increases. He pointed to the fairly recent falling off of
mining schools as evidence of the industry's fading attraction to
students as a career.
When questioned as to what she would like to see included in a national
mineral policy, Ann Carpenter cited the prevention of "frivolous
lawsuits" against mining companies as a high priority. She said
that these lawsuits make the US mining industry uncertain enough to
scare away investors. The varied and indecisive permitting procedures
and regulations add to the cost and delays associated with litigation.
Carpenter said that on average, the permitting process alone in the
US costs approximately $5-10 million and takes 5-10 years. Douglas
Silver agreed, and pointed to Chile as an example of a country with
a set path for regulation and permitting which, if followed, promises
"you get to mine." He does not find such certainty in the
US, and told the committee that the government needs to streamline
the process and "stick to it."
Under questioning from Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Silver said that even
with higher labor and reclamation costs, mines in the US could be
highly competitive if it weren't for the added expenses of litigation
and uncertain regulations. He said that there is no evidence that
the US's mineral resources are "picked over" or would be
too expensive if the system were adjusted. Silver and Cole agreed
that much resistance to mining in the US is based on an understanding
of mining technology used decades ago, not modern tools and techniques.
At the end of the hearing, Subcommittee chair Barbara Cubin (R-WY)
asked each of the witnesses to submit a list of minerals that could
become problematic. This list would be shown to the administration
in order to raise awareness of the potential security problems and
heighten interest in a national mineral policy.
Sources: Hearing testimony.
Contributed by Emily R. Scott, AGI/AIPG Summer 2003 Intern
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on 7-23-03