What could have been a great start of the year for Wyoming’s economy and the United States’ critical resource needs had the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) done its job, feels more like a hangover thanks to the agency.
As Laura Skaer, executive director of the American Exploration & Mining Association, writes for the Casper Star Tribune, the U.S. Forest Service, which is in charge of determining whether a proposed REE mine outside Sundance gets the green light, has been dragging its feet. Against earlier promises, the agency has not only failed to issue what is called the final “Record of Decision” (ROD) by November of last year, it has not even issued the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which provides the basis for peer agency and public review, and has to precede the ROD.
Readers of ARPN’s blog know that this is problematic in light of China’s commanding monopoly over the world’s rare earths supplies and the United States’ overreliance on foreign mineral resources.
“This dithering, whether intentional or from bureaucratic incompetence, means China not only gets the high-paying mining jobs, it gets the high-paying manufacturing jobs too. Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping opined in 1992, “The Middle East has oil. China has rare earths.” China, which has acquired most US-invented rare earths processing technologies, is happy to sell these minerals to American companies – as long as you do your manufacturing in China.”
Skaer laments the agency’s failure to fill a key internal position for months, as well as what she calls “walling off” the permit-seeking company from relevant details of the decision-making process.
Whatever the agency’s reasoning for the delay – the Forest Service now wants to complete the ROD by September of this year – the bottom line spells sobering news for Wyoming’s workers and our critical mineral needs, according to Skaer:
“Less than a year ago Reuters reported “The Pentagon repeatedly waived laws banning Chinese-built components on U.S. weapons in order to keep the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter program on track.” If the USFS would just do its job, the U.S. would reduce its unhealthy dependence on China for rare earths, Wyoming residents would have high paying jobs, and the Pentagon could comply with the law.”
Happy New Year?!?