The crumbling state of our nation’s infrastructure is neither a secret, nor is addressing it a small task, as today’s infrastructure stretches far beyond bridges, roads and ports. As ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty phrased it a few years back: “It’s not your Grandfather’s infrastructure anymore.”
U.S. President Joe Biden is right to call out and address this issue, writes the National Mining Association’s Rich Nolan in a recent piece for Inside Sources, but he cautions that the President’s American Jobs Plan runs the risk of falling far short “if we don’t recognize and elevate the importance of American-produced raw materials to make it a reality.”
“Incomplete infrastructure plans that prioritize new bridges and roads, electric vehicle (EV) charging networks, or a new electricity grid, but relegate mineral and metal production to a second-tier are bound to collide with an alarming reality: failure to make mining policy infrastructure policy, energy policy, and jobs policy could very well derail these key initiatives, further weaken the nation’s economic and national security, and play right into China’s hands.”
The global transition to greener energy will require massive amounts of metals and minerals underpinning renewable energy technology, such as battery tech staples like lithium, graphite, cobalt, but also mainstay metals like copper, which is critical for both renewable energy applications as well as more traditional infrastructure projects.
According to Nolan, “The inescapable conclusion is that we need more domestic mines – with American workers producing American materials under world-leading environmental and safety standards – and we need them tomorrow.”
And as friends of ARPN know, in the U.S. mining world, tomorrow – with apologies to showtune enthusiasts of Annie! – is not just a day away, but in terms of the state and federal permitting process, an average of 7 to 10 years away.
“From government to the automotive and tech industries, the troubling reality is we are financing enormous demand for material commodities — but not their supply. Should the president’s jobs plan become law without a decisive commitment to ramping up U.S. mineral production, some of its most ambitious initiatives will struggle to search for imported raw materials.”
Pointing to the alarming degree of our nation’s import reliance for many critical metals and minerals, Nolan states that while we should develop a comprehensive framework that encompasses closer cooperation with allies, and strategies like recycling to meet our mineral needs today and into the future, ultimately, “there is no getting to where we hope to go without more domestic mining.”
“Our challenge is not one of geology – the U.S. has vast domestic resources – but rather one of policy. America must build again. It must build and rebuild the bridges, roads, mass transit systems, and countless other pieces of critical infrastructure that cry out for attention. It must also build anew the industrial base and the high-paying community-supporting jobs to underpin this great effort – an effort that must be built from the mine up.”
In all, a timely reminder that infrastructure – and manufacturing in general – is materials-intensive. As we’ve said before at ARPN, Made in America starts with Mined in America.
Read Nolan’s full piece here.