American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Op-ed: A Potential Copper Bonanza Runs Afoul of the EPA


    The following op-ed by American Resources Principal Dan McGroarty was published in the Wall Street Journal on July 5, 2013. The original text can be found here.

    A Potential Copper Bonanza Runs Afoul of the EPA

    The metal is essential for wind turbines, but a proposed mine in Alaska has set off Keystone-like alarms.

    By Daniel McGroarty

    Activists are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to take a drastic regulatory step that could have significant repercussions for the U.S. economy. I’m not referring to the Keystone XL pipeline or taxing carbon emissions. At issue is the Pebble Mine—a natural-resource project in Alaska that could yield more copper than has ever been found in one place anywhere in the world.

    In addition to an estimated 80 billion pounds of copper, the Pebble Mine also holds strategic metals like molybdenum and rhenium, which are essential to countless American manufacturing, high-tech and national-security applications. Yet even before a plan to mine the deposit has been introduced by the Pebble Partnership, the group poised to bring the mine into production, the EPA appears all too willing to bend to the pressure of environmental activists. The EPA has conducted a hypothetical environmental assessment of the region that positions the agency to pre-emptively veto the Pebble project before the partnership even applies for a single permit.

    Apparently some left-wing environmental groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthworks and Trout Unlimited are so worried that the project might make it through the permitting process that they’re trying to stop it before it starts. As the NRDC put it in August 2012: “EPA’s study (and intervention) is critically important. If left to its own devices, the state of Alaska has never said no to a large mine.”

    Thankfully, some liberals are voicing their opposition to a new EPA pre-emptive veto power. The Center for American Progress, for example, has come out in favor of letting the permitting review take place, even though the group has criticized the Pebble Mine project.

    This is the first instance of a fissure in the unofficial anti-mining alliance that wants to see the EPA acquire vast new powers. With luck, more groups will emulate the Center for American Progress’s principled position.

    The irony here is that renewable-energy industries that environmentalists champion, like solar and wind, rely heavily on copper. More than three tons of it are needed for a single industrial wind turbine. CIGS photovoltaic panels hold out the promise of efficiently capturing the sun’s rays, with an energy conversion rate topping 20%. The “C” in CIGS stands for copper, and the “S” for selenium, 95% of which is derived as a copper byproduct.

    Electric cables, of course, carry the energy generated by these renewable sources to the national grid. The cables are usually made of copper, using the metal’s superior conductivity.

    Yet to hear anti-mining activists tell it, the project at Pebble Mine offers none of these benefits. Just last week, when speaking to the trade publication Energy & Environment News on the subject, NRDC official Joel Reynolds said flatly: “We view this as one of the worst projects anywhere in the world today.”

    Let’s take environmentalists’ advice and “think global” for a moment about that statement. How would a mining project at Pebble stack up against some other places where global markets currently source copper?

    Will Pebble employ child-slaves as young as 8 to do the mining? Copper mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo do—and that copper is sold into the global market.

    Will Pebble send its miners to work without respiratory equipment, wearing boots with holes that let acid rot miners’ feet? Chinese-run mines in Zambia do. Where are the environmentalist protests at the Zambian or Chinese embassies?

    Will Pebble’s leadership be able to order local officials jailed for opposing its project? That’s what happened last month in Iran—a mining nation set on doubling its copper production by 2015—where an entire town council was jailed for opposing a marble and stone mine.

    It’s easy for someone like the NRDC’s Mr. Reynolds to protest an American mine from the organization’s $5 million waterfront headquarters (the Robert Redford Building) in Santa Monica, Calif. In the U.S., protesting is a career choice, and movement leaders are feted with awards and grants. Opposing a project the size of Pebble makes a great fundraising tool. It’s far more challenging to life and limb to take on African warlords, Chinese officials or Iranian mullahs.

    Environmental activists often preach that the planet is interconnected. Well, that’s certainly true of the global marketplace: Every pound of copper left in the ground in Alaska or the Lower 48 is effectively a price support for producers in the places like Zambia and Angola.

    If the EPA reinterprets existing law—Section 404 of the Clean Water Act—and grants itself unilateral authority to stop the permitting process before it begins, Pebble Mine won’t be the only project in its cross hairs, and copper won’t be the only metal. A 2011 study by the Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm, shows that U.S. economic development projects worth more than $200 billion would be exposed if the EPA asserts this new power.

    President Obama recently said that we must weigh the opportunity cost of not building the Keystone XL pipeline. The same logic applies to the project at Pebble Mine—and the federal permitting process is the only place to do that.

    Mr. McGroarty is president of American Resources Policy Network, a public policy research group in Washington, D.C., that is supported by organizations and companies in mining and related industries.

  • Dan McGroarty featured (again) on the Glen Biegel Show

    American Resources President Dan McGroarty made his second appearance on the Glen Biegel Show in Anchorage, AK on Monday to discuss the U.S. mining permitting process and the proposed Pebble mine. Listen below.



  • Alaska Senate passes resolution in support of REE exploration

    Alaska continues to be a state leader when it comes to formulating mineral resource policy. In line with Gov. Sean Parnell’s five-part strategy to support the mining industry, the State Senate has passed a resolution in support of in-state Rare Earths exploration, which urges state agencies and the federal government to lend its support to [...]
  • Alaska maps state’s “mineral potential from the land and air”

    As the Juneau Empire’s Russell Stigall reports, the State of Alaska’s efforts to map Alaska’s “mineral potential from the land and air” are in full swing. Thanks to the state’s – and particularly Southeast Alaska’s – rich geology, state geologists, including Bob Swenson, state geologist and director of the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical [...]
  • Alaska minerals expert joins American Resources panel

    We’re thrilled to announce that Curtis J. Freeman, president of Avalon Development Corporation, has joined the American Resources panel of issue experts. A U.S. Certified Professional Geologist and licensed geologist in the State of Alaska, Mr. Freeman founded Avalon Development Corporation, a mineral exploration consulting firm based in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1985. Mr. Freeman and [...]
  • House Oversight Committee threatens use of subpoena powers in case of the EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed assessment

    As the Daily Caller reports, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform is stepping up the pressure on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the context of the agency’s controversial negative review of a potential mining project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay area. Reiterating a request made in May of 2012, when the EPA [...]
  • New Year’s Resolutions for U.S. Policymakers (Part 3)

    This is part three of American Resources’ three-part 2012 retrospective. Check out parts one here and two. Traditionally, the New Year is the time when people reflect on the past twelve months and formulate resolutions for the months ahead. As the first hours of 2013 have been dominated by the drama the Fiscal Cliff, our [...]
  • New Year’s Resolutions for U.S. Policymakers (Part 1)

    Traditionally, the New Year is the time when people reflect on the past twelve months and formulate resolutions for the months ahead. As the first hours of 2013 have been dominated by the drama the Fiscal Cliff, our Federal lawmakers may not have gotten around to focusing on other less publicized — but no less [...]
  • Dan McGroarty featured on the Glen Biegel Show

      American Resources Principal Dan McGroarty appeared on the Glen Biegel Show on Tuesday to discuss domestic mineral development and what the United States can do to take advantage of its critical metals, particularly in the resource-rich state of Alaska. Listen below.
  • American Resources principal discusses critical and strategic minerals with Juneau Empire

    Leading up to last Friday’s second Alaska Strategic and Critical Minerals Summit in Fairbanks, the Juneau Empire spoke with our very own Dan McGroarty, who had the honor to present alongside many distinguished members of Alaska’s State government and private sector representatives. The Juneau Empire’s Russell Stigall has summarized their conversation in an article highlighting [...]