In his latest RealClear World column, American Resources principal Daniel McGroarty takes on the latest book in the “Jason Bourne series” – the “Bourne Dominion.”
No, you’re not on the wrong blog – this is not a book club. The plot of the book actually involves a group of terrorists set on destroying the only rare earths mine in the U.S.. Only Jason Bourne can save the U.S. from China extending its “dominion” over these highly critical minerals – hence our interest in the book.
While probably making for an entertaining read (and I have to admit, I haven’t read the book yet), McGroarty laments that, in spite of the fact that China indeed has a near-total monopoly on global rare earths supply, and shutting down the only domestic mine really would indeed represent a serious problem, the plot is “simply not credible.”
The reality, while far more boring, is that it doesn’t take a terrorist network blowing up a mine to stop a major U.S. mining project. As McGroarty points out:
[A]ny group opposed to U.S. interests would simply need an anti-mining activist, a Wi-Fi connection and the email addresses of a few federal, state and local bureaucrats. A thousand Jason Bournes with arms-linked around the mine pit would be no match for a well-aimed question about an errant comma on page 15 of Appendix D-3 of any one of the scores of permitting documents required to bring a modern mine online in the U.S. today.
The just-released annual Behre Dolbear “Country Rankings for Mining Investment” report, underscores the fact that the U.S. while having gained a point in the ranking, still has the dubious honor of being tied with Papua New Guinea for having the lengthiest permitting process of the 25 major mining nations evaluated in the report.
In our world, as in Bourne’s, other countries step in to seize advantage when and where they can. Unless we streamline a process perennially judged to be the mining world’s worst, the U.S. will be begging or buying critical metals of all kinds from whatever countries continue to mine them, using whatever standards – or lack thereof – to pull them out of the ground.
Ultimately, McGroarty says, only U.S. policy makers could save the day. But who would go out and by that book?