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Mining Sector Essential Part of Nation’s Critical Infrastructure Workforce

As the U.S. grapples to flatten the curve of the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, large swaths of public life have come to a grinding halt. However, as North of 60 Mining News publisher Shane Lasley points out in a new piece for the publication, “it remains imperative for the nation to maintain the critical infrastructure needed to respond to the global emergency and ensure systems remain intact for after the coronavirus has passed.”

Thus, in March, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which executes the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authorities to secure critical infrastructure, has developed, in collaboration with other federal agencies, State and local governments, and the private sector, an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” advisory list. 

It should come as no surprise to followers of ARPN that the mining sector, listed in the “critical manufacturing” category in the guidance, is one of the sixteen industries deemed to have “a special responsibility in these times to continue operations.” 

In a statement commending the decision to include the sector, National Mining Association president Rich Nolan underscored the importance of mining:

“Mining underpins every aspect of our economy, providing the metals, minerals and coal that are essential to nearly every sector identified as critical infrastructure under DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency National Infrastructure Protection Plan. It was gratifying to see DHS reiterate the importance of our industry during this crisis. (…)

Our nation needs stability right now. We need a dependable supply chain for our manufacturing sector. And we need to know that our power sector is secure across the country.” 

As our critical infrastructure workforce keeps the country running, policy makers will have to focus on ways to allow them the flexibility to continue operating in these difficult circumstances.” 
Looking ahead, however, they will need to work to address supply chain vulnerabilities the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront — i.e. our dangerous (and often needless) over-reliance on supplies from overseas, and especially China.  With regards to medical equipment and medicines, Congress and the Administration are beginning to reverse “decades of bureaucratic inertia and plain inattention” to these issues, but as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty has argued:

“(…) while Congress and the president are at it, they may want to broaden their focus from critical medicines to critical minerals. (…) American innovation is ready to ‘work the problem’ of critical minerals supply. What remains is for American political leadership to make U.S. production a priority, and align public policy with a pressing national need.”