Several top Democrats doubled down on an effort Tuesday to reform a centuries-old mining law, introducing restrictions on future U.S. mining projects.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva and Democratic New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich urged Congress to immediately pass their Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act, which they introduced in late April, during a press briefing on Capitol Hill. The effort has been backed by several environmental groups but opposed by the National Mining Association (NMA), which argued the legislation would impede domestic mineral production needed to achieve the Biden administration’s clean energy goals.
“We continue to deal with a law that was established 150 years ago, it’s remained virtually the same and this path for the mining industry has been an opportunity to do as they please to a great extent on our public lands, in our environment, our indigenous communities, public health without any semblance of accountability,” Grijalva told reporters Tuesday.
The legislation would reform the 1872 General Mining Act, introducing more stringent environmental standards and give federal agencies increased power to protect large swathes of land from being mined. Groups including the League of Conservation Voters, Earthjustice and Sierra Club tweeted support for the bill.
But the NMA, the largest industry group representing U.S. miners, said the effort is counterproductive and would upend Democrats’ own climate agenda.
“Completely upending the general mining law – especially, right now, when minerals demand has never been higher – is not only counterproductive to securing our supply chains, but it will derail virtually everything this administration is trying to accomplish on electric vehicles and future energy technologies,” National Mining Association spokesperson Ashley Burke told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.
Congress must pass @RepRaulGrijalva's Clean Energy Minerals Reform Act to bring our mining laws into the 21st century, put an end to subsidizing mining operations, compensate tax payers, and protect our communities and public lands. pic.twitter.com/SLpaecETMR
— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) May 10, 2022
“This legislation does not represent a reasonable compromise and will only ensure or mineral import reliance deepens, inevitably increasing our reliance on Chinese metals and materials and other unfriendly or deeply unstable places,” Burke added.
While Grijalva acknowledged during his remarks that critical minerals are important for renewable energy technologies, he added that a green future cannot be facilitated by an 1872 law and such a future cannot come by risking “permanent damage to our sacred places, our wilderness and our health.”
“Isn’t it time we had a 21st century approach to mining in this country?” Heinrich said during the briefing. “Especially at a moment of increased efforts to create domestic supply [of critical minerals]. So, as we update our focus, we should also update our regulatory approach.”
In March, President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 in a bid to shore up the domestic renewable energy technology supply chain, a move the NMA supported. China alone controlled about 55% of the world’s rare earth mining capacity in 2020, according to a 2021 White House report.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.
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