House Republicans introduced legislation Friday that would forbid foreign companies with known human rights violations from leasing and operating mines on federal land, part of a broader effort to boost domestic energy and mining.
The restriction on “foreign bad actors” comes as part of a broader GOP package intended to streamline permitting for mining projects on federal lands and increase “responsible development of domestic energy and mineral resources,” according to a fact sheet issued by Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. By boosting American mining, the proposed legislation — part of a major Republican energy package known as the Lower Energy Costs Act — would help prevent America from becoming “beholden” to China, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy said in an interview with Fox Business March 9.
“Energy security is national security. Republicans are delivering on our promises to the American people by unleashing the full power of our energy and minerals, cutting permitting delays, creating jobs, growing our economy, and dealing a blow to China and Russia,” Westerman said in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “At long last, H.R. 1 will give Americans the tools to tap into our resources and build stronger, more resilient communities than ever before.”
China’s stranglehold on mineral supply chains has helped the country secure a dominating position in the global market for electric vehicles, but the mines that support the industry have been linked to the forced labor of Uyghur Muslims. The U.S market for solar panels plunged in 2022, after U.S. Customs and Border Protection began enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, impounding shipments of panels suspected of being developed using Uyghur slave labor.
Read Chairman Westerman's statement below ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/QZyLjlJ7ck
— House Committee on Natural Resources (@NatResources) March 14, 2023
President Joe Biden’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act, also sought to decouple America’s supply chain from China, by providing significant tax breaks for companies to manufacture electric vehicles and mine battery materials domestically. The president’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2024 included $6 billion in funding to “out-compete” China, in part by expanding U.S. business’ access to foreign markets.
“China controls 95% of the processing of critical minerals. They control 90% of minerals… critical minerals themselves,” McCarthy told Fox Business’ Larry Kudlow. “So we’re gonna open [American mining] up in an environmentally sound, safe, way that we can mine that we can produce more electric cars but not be beholden to China or any other country.”
It was not immediately clear if the proposed legislation would impact firms like Lithium Americas, which is only owned in part by Chinese mining giant Ganfeng Lithium through subsidiary GFL International. A federal judge upheld a 2021 decision to approve Lithium Americas’ proposal to establish a major lithium mine in Nevada, although the project has drawn criticism from Republicans due to the firm’s connection to China.
The office of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who introduced the legislation, did not immediately respond to a DCNF request for comment.
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