In the past few months, we have seen indications for a growing awareness of the need for mineral resource policy reform. Much emphasis has —rightfully — been placed on the national security aspects of our over-reliance on foreign mineral resources, as well as the nascent realization that the pursuit of the green energy transition is not feasible without critical minerals.
In a recent piece for the Rockland County Times, Tom Madison, executive director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy zeroes in on the issue from another angle. He writes:
“Mining may not always be front of mind when thinking about roadways and water systems, but addressing our infrastructure challenges simply cannot be accomplished without an efficient, responsive U.S. mining industry. The minerals and metals necessary to improve our vast array of infrastructure is truly dizzying: Millions of tons of steel to reinforce highways and erect towering bridges, silver to support aging water treatment systems, copper to conduct power across a vast web of transmission lines, and molybdenum to strengthen and enhance structural alloys. Minerals, metals, aggregates, and other resources from American mines are the essential ingredients that comprise and support the construction supplies and methods that build and maintain our infrastructure.”
While not new — ARPN’s Dan McGroarty explored the issue in a 2017 piece for Investor’s Business Daily explaining that “there’s more to the infrastructure story than cement trucks and Jersey Barriers” — it is an angle that should not be forgotten in the current discourse.
Striking a theme familiar to followers of ARPN, the comparison with fellow mining nations Canada and Australia, Madison argues that permitting reform for mining projects should be high on Congress’s priority list:
“Securing a new mining permit in Canada and Australia—nations with environmental safeguards comparable to our own—takes just two to three years. The U.S. average is seven years or more. It’s no wonder that, despite America’s incredible $6.2 trillion in mineral reserves, mining investment is fleeing to other nations. In 1990, 20 percent of all global mining investment flowed into the U.S. Today, it’s only 8 percent. (…)
Addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure simply can’t wait any longer. We need fundamental changes to the way we fund, finance, supply, and deliver projects. Including meaningful mine permitting reforms in upcoming infrastructure legislation will be enormously beneficial.”
And while national security and renewable energy are known to invite partisan bickering, the understanding that there is an urgent need to tackle infrastructure reform transcends party lines – or, as Dan McGroarty phrased it, “[i]n a time of when partisan rancor has reached record levels, infrastructure stands alone as a bipartisan refuge — one issue both parties can agree on.”
As Madison concludes:
“Let’s leverage this opportunity to self-supply a majority of the raw materials we need to rebuild our infrastructure, stanch the flow of foreign mineral imports, and keep American taxpayer dollars here at home.”