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Lawmakers Seek Critical Mineral Designation for Copper via Federal Legislation

Two weeks after the U.S. Geological Survey rebuffed a bipartisan call from members of Congress for an “out-of-cycle”addition of copper to the U.S. Government’s official List of Critical Minerals, House Republicans from Western mining states are pushing to achieve the “critical mineral” designation for copper via legislation.

Arguing that changing copper’s designation would allow the federal government to more efficiently ensure reliable and secure supplies of the material in the future, Representative Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.) is introducing the “Copper is Critical Act.”  The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Jim Baird (R-Indiana), and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), and Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.)

The bill would amend section 7002 of the Energy Policy Act of 2020, and represents the first time this process is used in an attempt to broaden the scope of the U.S. Critical Minerals List.

As followers of ARPN well know, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty has called for the designation of copper as a critical mineral on several occasions, and has submitted public comments to USGS to this effect.

Policy experts agree.

In a recent piece, Cullen S. Hendrix with the Peterson Institute for International Economics argues that while copper is widely mined and processed relative to listed critical minerals on the U.S. government’s list, “the security of diffuse global supply chains and production in US-friendly economies is still vulnerable to disruptions in producer countries. The ability and willingness of copper producing countries to keep supplying copper can change rapidly.”

He points to current trends in Peru, a key copper mining country, where resource nationalism has reared its head, as well as developments in neighboring Chile, that may indeed affect both countries’ “ability and willingness” to supply copper to the global market and elaborated that “designating copper as critical to national and economic security would lead to enhanced scrutiny from the USGS, which tracks minerals markets, production, and reserves. Industry advocates also believe that the designation might lead to streamlined permitting processes that would facilitate more domestic production.” 

With copper’s long list of applications growing in the context of the materials science revolution and with long-term demand scenario surging, ARPN will monitor the Copper is Critical Act as it moves through the legislative process.