As reported by Reuters, Caterpillar Inc will lay off of about eleven percent of the workforce at one of its U.S. manufacturing sites for mining equipment. The job cuts, necessitated by the need to bring to “bring production in line with demand,” according to Caterpillar’s announcement, will affect 460 workers at the Decatur, Illinois, plant.
This type of news is never welcome, but it is particularly disheartening when there are real growth opportunities in the mining sector – opportunities which are wasted due to an onerous and rigid regulatory permitting framework.
According to the National Mining Association, “mining’s direct and indirect economic contribution includes nearly 2 million jobs with wage and benefits well above the state average for the industrial sector.” That number could be significantly larger if it wasn’t for a permitting system which has once more given the U.S. the dubious honor of being tied with Papua New Guinea on permitting delays – an indicator of the time it takes to bring a new mine online – in the just-released 2013 “Where Not to Invest” report by the esteemed mining advisory firm Behre Dolbear.
Policy makers in Washington, DC would be well-advised to create a more predictable and expeditious regulatory framework for mining permits (without sacrificing environmental standards). In doing so, they might spare us from reading more headlines on layoffs in the manufacturing sector in the future, as such a framework would attract additional investment and allow the mining industry to increase its contribution to the U.S. economy at all levels.