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Panel Seeks Innovative Approaches to Spur Vibrant Domestic Mining Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 20, 2017 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing “Seeking Innovative Solutions for the Future of Hardrock Mining.”

Hardrock mining on federal land in the United States has a storied past, a challenging present and multiple needs for reform,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said. From rocks to roads, rare earths to green technologies, and iron ore to wind farms, all infrastructure projects rely upon a mining operation.”

Associate Director for Energy and Minerals with the U.S. Geological Survey Dr. Murray Hitzman laid out today’s reality: domestic and global demand for mineral commodities is on the rise while the U.S. is increasingly reliant on foreign minerals. He advocated for research to reinvest in “fundamental data on mineral resources” and “an accurate assessment” of our nation’s deposits.

The Nation’s land undoubtedly contains additional deposits of critical and strategic minerals, but mineral exploration by the private sector is hampered by the lack of modern geological and geophysical data,” Hitzman stated.

Thorough research is crucial as the Committee continues to develop proposals for a comprehensive infrastructure package. Infrastructure, economic development projects and a range of consumer goods rely on raw materials, something Mitch Krebs, President and CEO of Coeur Mining, Inc., emphasized throughout the hearing.

[I]t’s important that we don’t lose sight of the connection between the mining activities we carry out and what these metals are needed for,Krebs stated.By eliminating the unnecessary duplication that currently takes place at multiple levels of government and by tackling the lack of coordination and communication among various regulatory agencies, we could bring certainty and a level of common sense to the process.

Currently, it takes an average of 7 to 10 years for final permitting approval in the U.S. compared to an average of two years in Australia and Canada. Krebs debunked the notion that mining companies run rampant using existing loopholes.

It took over 19 years to finally obtain the ninety separate local, state and federal permits for the Kensington mine and put it into production,” Krebs stated. The idea that there is some kind of a loop hole after 19 years, a thousand studies and a trip to the Supreme Court, I don’t think those guys would let a loophole [stand.]

The panel appeared to find consensus on the need to incentivize mining on federal lands, and discussed how a carefully crafted royalty policy coupled with permitting certainty could add billions to the treasury and state coffers, address the overwhelming problem of abandoned mines and boost job creation.

The U.S. ranking would be higher if not for the permitting delays. So if you’re going to add a royalty, it will be a discouragement. But if you improve permitting that would be an encouragement,” attorney James Cress said.

Bret Parke, Deputy Director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, expressed serious concerns with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed financial responsibility requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Beyond the fact that it’s duplicative to state programs, the rule would create an even greater economic burden for state governments and the mining industry.  

Modern state regulatory permitting programs and related [financial responsibility] ameliorate the very risk Congress was addressing more than three decades ago when it passed CERCLA,” Parke said. These mature and sophisticated state and federal regulatory programs have made the requirement to promulgate the proposed rule duplicative and unnecessary.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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