As followers of ARPN know, the United States has finally embarked on a quest to look for ways to reduce its over-reliance on foreign mineral resources, and in doing so, reduce the leverage it has yielded to nations like China over our national security.
In a new series for the Capital Research Center, geologist and ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, who last year authored “Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence,” takes a look a potential piece of the puzzle – federal land withdrawals from access to exploration and mining, the scope of which he says “are not well understood.”
In four installments, Mamula discusses how public land withdrawal is “endangering the nation,” how we “overdrew our mineral account”, where lands were withdrawn, and how we can “secure our mineral future.”
Figure 1. General Locations of Major Metals Operations in the United States. Locations include mines producing gold, silver, copper, molybdenum, platinum, lead, zinc, iron, titanium, magnesium, beryllium, and other metals. Source: National Mining Association and U.S. Geological Survey.
“We need a groundbreaking compromise so mining can begin again without disrupting areas that should never be disturbed because of their unique national identity and cultural importance. The mineral industry will need to and has already accepted reasonable conditions on its activities. Likewise, preservationists and others must accept the fact that somewhere in that million-acre wilderness area, there is going to be a mine. The mining industry is being squeezed more so than its opponents because the location of ore bodies is immovable. Boundaries of withdrawn land can be adjusted, not the location of mineral deposits. When the right choices are made—both sides win.”
However, he worries that it may already be too late to completely rectify the situation:
“The consequences of withdrawing federal lands from mineral exploration and mining have not been fully appreciated by policymakers because the results of their decisions—and those of their predecessors—may take decades to be felt. No one can predict the future, especially regarding the ever-increasing speed of the development and needs of technology and its associated minerals, manufacturing improvements, and global energy requirements.
Yet previous withdrawals were done cavalierly and without due regard to a comprehensive approach to resource management. Today, the nation is finally feeling the cumulative effect of all previous withdrawal actions as mineral imports hit record highs year over year.”
An all-of-the-above approach to mineral resource policy, for which ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty has advocated, should encompass a prudent review of federal land withdrawals.
The presidential impeachment trial may be sucking up all the oxygen in Washington, DC, and dominating the media nationwide, but policy makers would be well-advised not to neglect our mineral resource dependencies, which were finally being recognized as a serious issue on both sides of the political aisle.
As ARPN’s McGroarty recently noted during a panel discussion:
“We can’t admire the problem anymore. We don’t have the luxury of time.”
For more from Ned Mamula, read his four-piece series “Russia’s Uranium Gambit: An Underappreciated Energy Source” , and his four-piece series on Rare Earths entitled “America’s Rare Earth Ultimatum: Rare Earths in High Demand.”